Within four months of each other, two bouldering gyms opened in Forsyth County, plugging what had been a gap in the county’s recreation offerings.
Gnarwall Bouldering Gym, 4685 Yadkinville Road in Pfafftown, opened in January, followed a few months later by Rock Box Bouldering, 1024 N. Chestnut St.
Bouldering is a sub-sport of rock climbing, requiring participants to climb routes that are more horizontal than vertical. Because the walls in the gym aren’t tall, there is no need for a harness, ropes or any other safety equipment. Padded floors cushion falls.
The only equipment needed is a pair of climbing shoes and chalk for better gripping, both of which are available at the gyms. Though bouldering stands as its own sport, the skills acquired can be transferred to rock climbing.
“Bouldering is more focused on the actual movement component of climbing, where you’re climbing close to the ground and trying to nail down your technique,” said Benjamin Burgess, the manager and one of the owners of Rock Box Bouldering. “It’s more social and cheaper to get into.”
First-timers at both gyms watch an introductory video describing the sport. Like a climbing wall, there are colored handholds affixed to the walls marking the routes. In most cases, a staff member or fellow climber will offer tips.
Not in great shape? Not a problem. Bouldering is not a brute strength kind of sport, said Scott Arrington, the owner of Gnarwall Bouldering.
“The main thing to realize is that it’s a mental sport, so a positive attitude is a mandatory thing. It’s intuitive to think it’s mostly upper-body strength but a lot of it is lower-body strength,” he said.
It’s also a good way to build fitness in a supportive community, Burgess said.
The area has lots of climbers, drawn to rocks at Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock state parks.
“Our community is great and super accepting,” said Burgess. “They’ll cheer people on they don’t know. I see new friendships forming every day.”
Both gyms have programs geared toward children, including after-school programs and teams. Each gym also has classes for beginners.
The gyms sell monthly memberships for about $50 and day passes, which are about $15. Shoes are an additional $3 to $4.
FOOTNOTE: And speaking of climbing, Aperture Cinema, 311 W. Fourth St., will screen Free Solo beginning Oct. 19. The film follows climber Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb the El Capitan Wall at Yosemite National Park. Honnold, one of today’s greatest climbers, used no ropes or safety gear as he climbed the 3,000-foot wall.