Tampa’s Vertical Ventures was the first rock climbing gym in Florida when it opened in 1996, according to manager Kelly Jackson. Located just off Anderson Road, at 5402 Pioneer Park Blvd. in the Town ’N Country area, the gym provides the opportunity to experience the thrills of rock climbing in this notoriously flat state.
“We have three different kinds of climbing that people can do,” Jackson said. “We have what is called ‘bouldering,’ which is climbing without the use of any harnesses or ropes. It’s just you and the wall, but if you fall, the floors are very heavily padded. We have ‘top rope climbing,’ where the climber is in a harness and another person holds the rope to prevent them from falling. Most new people want to learn that type of climbing. First they have to take a 30-minute class to learn how to hold the ropes for each other and to demonstrate that skill. We have 12 different rope stations.
“The third kind of climbing is called ‘lead climbing,’ which is a more difficult skill, and you have to take extra classes to get to that advanced level. In our lead climbing area, you climb up one wall, upside down across the ceiling and down the other wall.”
Whether one chooses bouldering or top rope climbing, the numerous holds on the wall are marked according to skill level to show the routes one can take, or climbers can simply find their own routes.
“In total, we probably have 100 different routes up to the top and at least one is changed every Monday, so there is always a new challenge,” Jackson added.
Jackson says that anyone can learn to rock climb, and Vertical Ventures is set up for all different skill levels.
“We have some climbs that virtually anybody can do and some that are so hard, only a few people can do them,” she explained. “We have lots of families that come and climb together, especially on the weekends. We sometimes have toddlers climbing. The only age restriction is that those under 13 can’t hold the ropes for someone. It’s perfect for summer when kids are out of school and parents are looking for a different and fun activity.”
Along with being fun, rock climbing is physically and mentally challenging and a great way to exercise, according to Jackson.
“It’s a good way to develop upper body strength,” Jackson added. “A lot of people come here and end up trading in their traditional gym membership for a climbing membership because it works out your whole body without the monotony of being at a conventional gym.”
A popular location for private parties and corporate team building events, Vertical Ventures Tampa location features rock walls nearly 20 feet high. However, the company’s new location at 116 18th St. South in St. Petersburg is four times as large, with rock walls nearly 40 feet high.
For information, visit www.verticalventures .com or call (813) 884-7625.