By Doug Kish, M.A.
Who would think there would be a rock climbing wall indoors and out of the weather located right here in northeastern Ohio. That is exactly what Kendall Cliffs is. Built in 1998, this facility allows for experienced climbers to practice during the offseason and for beginning climbers to learn the sport before they attempt an outdoor climb.
A professionally designed and built rock climbing gym, Kendall Cliffs is located adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula, Ohio. The facility features 7,000 square feet of climbing surface with a peak height of 35 feet. The climbing surface is made up of a combination of textured plywood and “natural” rock surfaces. The most unique aspect of the gym is a 35-foot high arch traversing the span of the building.
Instructors will introduce you to the fundamentals and the hazards of the sport. All participants are required to wear a harness and climbing shoes for safety and are encouraged to climb in pairs, which allows one climber to belay the other. Belaying is a climbing technique for securing a climber during their climb. The mechanical belay device is used to hold the rope of a climber by applying friction. The belayer wears a harness around his waist which holds a rope connected to the climber’s waist harness. This allows the anchor person to support the weight of the climber in the event of a fall. Climbers from beginner to advanced levels can participate by merely picking their “color” path and following it up the wall. You can climb to whatever level you are comfortable with and then go back down, select another path and start again.
While there is no other indoor rock climbing facility in this area, some patrons are beginners with a desire to learn the sport while others want to maintain their skills for outdoor climbing. Kendall Cliffs is an excellent facility for people who intend to travel to the mountains to climb and want to be proficient in the sport so they can enjoy their vacation immediately.
New climbers will learn that you will not be just pulling yourself up the side of a wall and leg strength will be your best friend. An array of lessons is offered at Kendall Cliffs starting with Rock Gym Basic which is a one-hour class for new climbers of all ages with no experience. This class provides an instructor and the necessary equipment. In Rock Gym 101 and Rock Gym 101 for 2 you will learn the basics of indoor rock climbing, knot tying, belaying, rope management, technical equipment and climbing commands. This two-hour class is available for singles or pairs ages 16 or older. There is also a two-hour class for rock climbing as a family activity. This class will teach parents the skills to assist their children. There is also one class for instruction on lead climbing. Participants are permitted to use their own equipment but rental equipment is also available. The main focus of all lessons is on making climbing a safe and a fun activity. At the end of any class you will have the skills to climb and be proficient at Kendall Cliffs.
All instructors at Kendall Cliffs are experienced outdoor climbers. Instructor Greg Kern advises, “The best thing for a beginner is persistence. Like any sport, climbing takes repetitive practice to gain endurance. The first couple climbs will work muscles that are not necessarily used in many other activities, like your forearms. Expect to be sore but wanting more to get to the top.” Kendall Cliffs has two observation decks across from the actual climbing wall where you can sit and enjoy a snack while observing climbers.
“The best thing for a new climber is to learn as much as they can about the world of climbing,” says instructor Zach Tanner. He continues, “The world of climbing has many aspects to learn like ethics, safety and climbing technique. The strength to climb harder routes will come with time. Persistence is the key to get strong but if overdone, it can be dangerous for overuse injuries. If you are a new climber or an old climber, make sure you make rest a priority.”
Day passes are available for climbing and several membership plans are available at Kendall Cliffs, including single and family monthly and annual plans. Numerous members think of their climb as their regular workout routine rather than a conventional gym workout. The facility is also available for special events and group events.
Indoor rock climbing is a way of training all year round to improve your skills and technique. Try something new for 2016. If you start indoors now, by the time the weather breaks in Spring, you will be ready and qualified for a great outdoor adventure.
Kendall Cliffs Ohio