Rock climbing has emerged as an increasingly popular sport in recent years, both outdoors and even more so indoors at climbing gyms. According to Github.org, by the end of 2020, there were 580 indoor climbing gyms in the U.S. with 34 states having at least one. The Tokyo Olympics (delayed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic) was the first to include rock climbing as an event.
There are several underlying reasons for this trend. One reason for this is it’s a very effective way to get cardio exercise, build muscle, and exercise the brain. Oliver Gill, a senior at Berkeley High School, said it is “ a really fun way to get strong,” going so far as to call the sport “addicting.”
Daniel Vencill, senior and vice president of the BHS Rock Climbing Club, talked about appreciating the brain power needed to engage in “a really big mental struggle.”
Additional benefits include building fitness, balance, and coordination with a full body workout, while also being a brain workout since choosing a path to climb can be like solving a mental puzzle.
The nature of the sport means people have to climb with at least one other person for safety reasons, so it can also be a good way to socialize and be part of a community. Gill agreed that “it’s good to hang out with … friends” and shared that his friends introduced him to climbing.
At the same time, it’s a very versatile sport, as people climb at their own pace, and set their own goals, and there is a variety of difficulties. Vencill shared that the sport has “so many different styles, and everyone can do their own thing.”
The BHS Rock Climbing Club president, senior Annika Miles-Wang, discussed the growing popularity of climbing. “A lot of people started doing it, and then since they’re doing it, their friends want to do it too. And it’s really easy to go with your own time frame,” Miles-Wang said.
Vencill also pointed out that “after COVID, people wanted to try new things and get out there.” In addition, a new climbing gym, The Oaks, is coming to North Berkeley soon. This will open up opportunities for even more BHS students to try climbing.