On belay

Rock climbing with the family in and outdoors

RockSport Indoor Climbing Center offers a variety of services from day passes, memberships and lessons to parties, guides and gear.

RockSport Indoor Climbing Center offers a variety of services from day passes, memberships and lessons to parties, guides and gear.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more information, visit www.rocksportreno.com.

I grew up climbing at Red Rock Canyon and in the gym with my dad in Vegas. I had a blast doing it, and I was pretty good, too, until I stopped going as often because homework started taking away from my climbing time. I still go every once in a long while, typically still with my dad, and I still love it, but it's just a little frustrating to not be able to climb the high rated routes my 13-year-old self could.

But rock climbing—indoor and outdoor—is an awesome hobby for families and really anyone to get into. It's a relatively simple sport, especially when you're in a gym because the gear can be provided for you.

“It's a great family sport because the families have to depend on each other to climb in here,” owner of RockSport Indoor Climbing Center Mark Gammon said. “You just learn each other's trust. It's a great sport that doesn't—you're not going to end up with the soccer mom kind of people screaming and yelling at you. Everybody plays nice when they're in here, so I think that's one of the better reasons why it's a great family sport.”

Gammon thinks that climbers are generally good people to be around for families, too.

“There's great camaraderie in climbing,” he said. “It's a very, very social sport. Climbers basically enjoy other climbers. … Climbers like going places together, they like seeing new things, they like working out together, they like climbing or trying boulder problems, they like camping in the dirt. … It's an inexpensive, free-spirited sport that's enjoyed by everybody.”

And almost anyone can do it. Gammon has seen people of all ages and kinds in his gym, and I personally used to climb with my grandfather when he was around 70 years old.

“I would say probably 3 or 4 is probably the youngest serious climber up to Leo, who is an ex-New York cab driver … and I think Leo is about 81 or 82. It's a pretty big range,” Gammon said.

Gammon also said that even pregnant women climb at RockSport pretty frequently. They have a pregnancy harness that the mothers can use. Mothers with young children also like to climb at the gym.

“Mom has been climbing up until her doctor says she can't climb anymore,” Gammon said. … And next thing you know, [the kids are] running around and learning to talk because you can't really get hurt on our engineered floor out here, so it's really a safe place for mothers that bring their kids in early in the morning when it's not packed, and it's kind of quiet in here.”

Climbing, however, is a sport that you can quickly lose progress if you don't climb for a while. It can be gained back relatively quickly, too, though if you get back in the gym or on the rocks.

“It only takes a couple days before you start losing muscle memory and muscle mass,” Gammon said. “Climbing has a whole different set of skills than any other sport.”

Being in Reno has advantages when it comes to climbing outdoors. Within a couple hours or much less, you can be at some of the best climbing on the West Coast.

“We certainly got all the climbing areas up at Donner [Summit], which are some awesome, awesome climbing places up there,” Gammon said. “The Snowshed, Schoolhouse, Dinosaur Rock—you can park on the road and 20 feet away, you can start climbing. So they're very, very close. And that's—depending on how you drive—30 minutes away. Pyramid. Some of the best climbing in the west is certainly down in the Bishop area. … And they're opening up new spots all the time.”

For those wishing to go outside to climb, RockSport does guiding. Their guide is American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified and knows the climbing areas around here very well, according to Gammon. He also guides RockSport's outdoor summer camps.

Climbing in a gym used to be for when climbing outside wasn't possible or preferable because of the weather, which some still use the gym for, but Gammon said that there are now a large number of his customers who only climb indoors. Some come for exercise reasons and others just as a fun thing to do.

“A lot of them are using it to stay in shape, but I'd say the other half of them are looking for a great place to come hang out with their friends,” he said. “This is where they meet up with people of same or opposite sex, they climb, maybe they go outside, but this is what they do during the week. And if they're hard-core climbers, it beats going to a bar, and it's cheaper.”

You can also host your birthday party at RockSport, and Gammon said they are packed with these almost every weekend. Most popularly, they do kids' birthdays, but they've done parties for older groups, too, including a surprise party for a 40-year-old woman.

RockSport also offers gear to rent and to purchase—some of which is RockSport's own line, Homegrown. The gear from the Homegrown line is all manufactured locally.

“We manufacture all of our own chalk bags, things like our drag pads that are out here,” he said. “We also manufacture a safety triangle that goes on the end of our auto belay devices and a couple of other things.”

His seamstress used to be one of the lead seamstresses for the Rockettes in New York, and she works out of a small shop they have in Sparks. She told Gammon that she can sew anything he comes up with—and has—because at least “it doesn't have to hold up for 200 shows a year, you don't have to be able to put it on and take it off in less than two minutes and you don't have to kick above your head in it.”

RockSport is a “full-on gear shop,” and they keep a selection of gear from other brands in stock, too, and can special order from most companies in the business quickly.

“We've got probably 400 pairs of shoes in stock, which is nice because you can try on a pair of shoes, and you can take them out and see how they feel on the wall,” Gammon said.