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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

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Rock climbing: indoor or outdoor, it's all good


You don't have to travel to Yosemite or Devil's Tower to get into the challenging sport of rock climbing. Milwaukee-and surrounding areas-have a variety of fantastic indoor and outdoor climbing options.

"While climbing is an extremely physical sport, even more so it requires intense concentration. This intense concentration is great escape from worries of food, rent and (office) cube size," says Matt Krajewski, a rock climber who lives in Riverwest.

At some indoor walls you can rent the equipment, but you might want to invest in your own. Basic equipment includes shoes, a harness, a chalk bag, a rope and a belay device.

In order to understand the rock jock talk, let's start with a quick, basic vocabulary lesson.

Belay: A system by which the climber is safeguarded from hitting the ground. The belayer stands on the ground "controlling" the rope, while the other person climbs. This is the most important skill involved in rock climbing, because the person on the ground -- the belayer -- is literally taking the life of the climber into his or her hands. Most indoor walls require a belay test, proving you are able to safely belay a climber.

Belay device: A piece of equipment connected to the harness of the belayer. The rope runs through this devise to create friction, aiding the belayer in their job. In short, if a climber were to fall, the belay devise, along with the belayer's quick response, would stop the fall.

Harness: Sewn nylon webbing fashioned to fit between the legs and around the waist of climbers. The harness connects the climber to the rope and the belayer to their belay device.

Chalk bag: A small cloth or nylon bag filled with gymnast's chalk. The chalk absorbs moisture in the hands, allowing the climber to have a better grip.

"I love climbing indoors, because you can affect your surroundings to make them easier, to lighten up that climb, or make them harder, and push the envelope a bit," says Krajewski. "But then again, you can't turn around on an indoor climb and stare a buzzard in the face."

Indoor climbing walls
Adventure Rock Climbing Gym, Inc.
21250 W. Capitol Dr. (262-790-6800)
Do not need a membership. Belay test required.* 35-ft.wall
Cost: $12.61 per day; $10 to rent a gear package (shoes, harness and belay device); Gear also rented separately (shoes $4.50, harness, belay device or chalk bag $2.50)
Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, noon-10pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
* Belay instruction: $30 (includes 1/2 hour of instruction and a pass for the open climb)
Hours for testing only: Tuesday and Thursday, 6-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-2 p.m.

REI
13100 W. Capitol Dr. (262-783-6150)
www.rei.com/
Membership required. No belay test, but must be belayed by a staff member. 27-ft.wall
Cost: Free (Must be an REI member). May borrow equipment or bring your own.
Hours: Family climb: Monday and Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Adult nights: Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m. Weekends reserved for birthday parties, team-building exercises, etc.

Solid Rock Sports
1034 N. 4th St. (Turner Hall) (414.272.7625)
www.solidrocksports.com/
Membership not required. Belay test required.* 25-ft.wall
Cost: $8.25 per day, $6.50 for students; Rentals available: $4 for harness or shoes, $6.75 for both; Free belay device.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
* "Learn to climb" class. $20 for 30 minutes of instruction, includes free pass to come back.

Grand Slam
4905 S. Howell Ave. (414-483-8400)
Membership not required. No gear needed. Ideal for kids. 20-ft.vertical rotating wallCost: $3.50 per person for 15 minutes of climbing.
Hours: Monday through Friday, noon-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

YMCA
The following Y's have indoor climbing walls:
Downtown YMCA, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. (414-291-9622)
Schroeder YMCA, 9250 N. Green Bay Rd. (414-354-9622)
Southwest YMCA, 11311 W. Howard Ave. (414-546-9622)
West Suburban YMCA, 2420 N. 124th St. (414-778-4949)
Costs, classes and open climbs vary from branch to branch, and from session to session.
Membership to the Y is not required to take a climbing class. Also available for birthday parties and team-building exercises. Call Eric Edwards for more information: (414) 291-9622.

Outdoor climbing locations
--Devil's Lake, Baraboo
--Lafayette Wall, On the 76-trail bike path, North of the Lafayette Bridge.

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