Life on The Edge (Rock Gym, that is)

As a kid, every summer at a week-long camp we could choose two "interest groups." Mine were the same every summer: the adventure course and rappelling.

So when I drove by The Edge Rock Gym while living in Florida, I was pumped. A few days later, when I saw a Groupon for an instruction and gear all-day pass for $15 p/p (regular price for the day pass, including everything you need, is still a really reasonable $25), I was even more pumped! $30 and one day later and I was on the wall.

Have you seen those rock climbing towers in malls and at fairs? The Edge Rock Gym is kind of like that, except an entire gym of climbing walls.

They ask you to make reservations with the Groupons, and I believe if you are doing the regular day pass package they also ask that you make them.

When I arrived, I signed a waiver and was fitted with climbing shoes and harnesses and given a carabiner. Then I went through an instruction course, which took about 30 minutes. The instructor was very nice and easy to understand, showing us which knots to tie, how to use the belay ropes and how to properly belay your partner so you don't drop them (that would be no bueno). Even those in the group who had never done any climbing or rappelling had no problem picking everything up. After making sure each of us knew all the steps needed to keep us safe, he turned us loose.

On my first climbing attempt, I made it about five feet off the ground and then decided I wanted to "test" the belay system (aka my partner's ability to catch me). It worked/he did. Falling is pretty uncomfortable the first time, so try climbing a few feet up and then falling so you can experience how it feels before you're 20 feet in the air, petrified and clinging to the wall. You don't have to be a muscle man to belay your partner -- they wrap the ropes twice at the top so the weight is significantly distributed. I had no trouble holding up my partner... and I'll admit, at first I was a little concerned about my ability to not drop him! 

There are probably about 10 pairs of ropes situated around the walls so you can climb different sections with your partner. There are also four or five auto-belay ropes, meaning there is a machine doing the job of a partner, so you can both climb. Think it's scary jumping down when a person is holding you up? The first jump trusting a machine was quite a bit worse. Again, definitely recommend trying it once just a few feet off the ground so you can see what it feels like. The auto-belay was a really uncomfortable feeling. It's kind of like a seatbelt... if you try to sit back into it, it won't "catch". You have to fall or jump, and it takes a split second to "catch" so there was a moment of panic each time for me. But, each time, it worked like a charm, and the more I used it the more comfortable I got with it. 

Three hours later, I was completely wiped out. I knew I was done when my hands were so sore I couldn't get more than three "rocks" up. If you have lifting gloves, bring them. Those would have helped a lot.

Overall, an extremely fun afternoon! This is a great date, group activity and it would also be fun for kids. There were two kids there, both maybe nine or 10, having a blast. It IS hard and it IS a workout, so you do need to be in good health but by no means to you need to be crazy fit. 

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