The more climbing I do indoors, the worse I climb outdoors. Why? Are they two different sports? Like this discussion thread? Is this the big reason:
“indoor climbing does not incorporate some of the biggest parts of climbing, the mental game that is involved with climbing outdoors (fall dynamics, gear placements) and possibilities for different climbing sequences to get past difficult spots.”
Is it because the real rock outside feels – I don’t know what else to say, except – real? Real rock is hard and painful. But so is a plywood gym wall coated to simulate a real rock cliff. I understand there’s a huge difference between placing your own protection – trad climbing – and clipping bolts in a gym. But I’ve observed a decrease in ability between top rope climbing in the gym and top rope climbing outdoors. Why? Is it strictly comfort? If you climb indoors all the time, is outdoor climbing just enough different that it seems harder?
This article talks about gym climbing being a “meat market” with a higher percentage of men to women. This is exactly the opposite of my experience. Way more women climb in the gym than climb outdoors. (Not a criticism, just an observation.) One woman climber, when I asked her why so few women climb outdoors, said to me “Bathrooms.” OK, I get that. (As if men love to squat and drop. That is always so comfortable – and fun - for guys.)
I think of the gym as an adjunct to outdoor climbing – as a way to work on strength and technique so that, when I go outdoors to do “real climbing,” I can climb better. (To me, it’s like the treadmills, or the rowing machines, or the cross country ski machines, in the gym – they are supposed to simulate the real activity of running outside, or rowing a boat on water, or, not to put too fine a point on it, actually skiing. On snow. Outdoors. Wowser! Who knew you could even do that?
I have talked to so many climbers in the gym – you know me, I can’t keep my mouth shut – who have never climbed outdoors. Or tell me, “Maybe twice I’ve climbed outdoors.” This could just be my age. When I started climbing, you could climb outside, or, let me think for a minute, you couldn’t climb at all. Bouldering and buildering were done, but, get this – they were done outside. Crazee, I know, but that’s the way it was. (Of course, when I climbed in the old days, I could always grab a nearby dinosaur as an anchor.)
I have noticed this summer, because I’ve climbed in the gym more frequently, my outdoor climbing has suffered. I noticed this in the Black Hills, I saw this at Red Wing and, last weekend, I noticed it at Taylors Falls.
So, I have begun to think that gym climbing and outdoor climbing are two different sports. Again, not a criticism, but an observation. For me, there are lots of good reasons to climb indoors:
- It’s a shorter drive
- I can get tired faster
- There are no bugs and it never rains
- It’s not as cold indoors in the winter
- The bathrooms are nicer and generally have TP on a roll. (Although, the sounds from the other stall sometime frighten me.)
- And, maybe, most importantly, I never have to hike uphill from the parking lot
Good reasons to climb outdoors:
- It’s outside
- It’s real rock
- It’s traditional;people started climbing so they could actually get to the top of something. Strange, huh?
- You don’t have to look for the doors with these signs.
What do you think about indoor vs outdoor climbing? Do you indoor climb because it’s more convenient but you’d rather be outside? Do you notice a difference in your climbing when you’re indoors vs outdoors? Is gym climbing a way to get better for the real climbing on real rocks or are they just two different activities? Comments?