Vancouver climbing gym capsule reviews

| Sports
Dropped in at two Vancouver area climbing gyms this week, Vertical Reality in Surrey and Cliffhanger in Coquitlam. Both gyms have bouldering and routes, but I just bouldered.

Vertical Reality ($10 to boulder, $15 to toprope) is in a sort of industrial park in Surrey. It's a bit ghetto, dimly lit, with short walls. There's a lot of bouldering, though, and the bouldering walls are incredibly dense, with multiple colors of tape on nearly every hold. They've even run out of tape colors so a lot of the labels are like yellow with red stripe. This all makes it fairly hard to track the problems—you definitely need to scope them before you get on. Also, the problems are deliberately rated about one V-grade harder than normal. Bonus features: free coffee (though it is Folgers) and during the 1-3 drop-in period the staff will belay you (I didn't do this).

Cliffhanger ($13.50 to boulder, $15 to toprope, includes gear) is a fair bit bigger, but still substantially smaller than the gyms in the Bay Area. There's one big bouldering wall that's fairly overhanging, plus a small doorway/roof, and problems scattered on the route walls. The problems here seem to be a bit more accurately rated, though they'd just had a comp and so they were all numbered, so you had to mentally map that 1-10 were V0, etc., which was a bit irritating. The problem density was pretty high again, with some hard to see tape colors so you still had to really scope them out before getting on the wall. Some of the doorway/roof problems were especially cool—powerful and reachy. Negatives: if you want to top-rope you need to pay a $6 belay test fee the first time. I've never seen this anywhere else.

Other notable features of both gyms:

  • Tricky starts. Apparently this is a common local feature because Squamish starts are difficult.
  • The same ropes for toprope and lead. Note that this means if you lead, you either need to finish or someone else needs to climb to the top to reset the rope. The way things work at the gym I climb at is that there are separate fixed ropes for toprope and then you bring your own rope for lead.

Also, next time I bring my own shoes. Rental climbing shoes really suck, especially since you definitely want to wear socks—which screws up your feel for the rock—unless you'd enjoy a case of foot fungus.