Hanging around

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So, mister, the summer started with excellent weather and you still haven't been outside. No, the walk from the door to your sport utility vehicle doesn't count. If you're pondering a new sport to try, rock climbing is the way to go.

Because of our proximity to the Rockies, climbing is one of the best summer sports one can do in Calgary. However, some precursor info is in order for those who might have some questions about climbing.

First off, one must discard the inevitable movie references and aura surrounding climbing. Almost everybody is physically capable of climbing, even if one is completely out of shape from a year of "studying." Climbing is more about balance and coordination than strength; it is less about raw power than psychological preparation. Nobody starts by climbing mountains, and nobody should expect to.

Second, climbing is inherently dangerous. If you're going to go, always be vigilant for your personal safety. Learning from a qualified instructor is best but an experienced friend who is comfortable teaching can be just as good.

Finally, try to start learning with a good friend whose experience in climbing is similar to your own (even if this experience is zero). Going with experienced people you know is the cheapest, but perhaps not the best way to start. Once you've decided you enjoy it (you inevitably will), it pays to invest in equipment which enables you to climb outside.

Unfortunately, climbing is only cheap after you've learned some requisite skills and purchased the necessary equipment (at which point it becomes free at the university--for students--and outdoors).

Three indoor walls exist in Calgary: The indoor wall at the Outdoor Program Centre at the University of Calgary, The Calgary Climbing Centre and The Stronghold.

The OPC wall is made from concrete, as opposed to the wood paneling with moulded plastic holds used at the CCC and The Stronghold. Thus, the OPC wall is arguably more realistic in feel than its counterparts and has features enabling you to use climbing moves such as "smearing." However, the OPC wall has accumulated a great deal of "grease" because of its usage over the years. Finally, the OPC wall is inflexible in that its routes never change.

In the end, nobody should be climbing at a gym unless its a rainy day or -30 C below. When you first start rock climbing, going to a gym is useful, but heading to the crags is the best way to enjoy climbing. Call the gyms for more information, but make sure you make a trip outside before the summer is over.