First time at SR? We've got your answers here:
Do I have to be a member to climb at Sportrock?
Nope! While our memberships come with lots of awesome benefits, we offer day passes as well. There are a few options for both, as well as discounts for certain groups and individuals. Information on rates and benefits can be found here.
I've never done this before, can I climb?
Yes! For new climbers interested in learning the ropes, our Basic Skills class is the perfect option. You will not only get to climb that day, but you will gain the knowledge and skill to return at any point in the future and climb on your own. Offered seven days a week, Basic Skills is a great way to shake off the work day and makes a unique weekend date with a friend.
What if I just want to try it once or twice?
If you just want to know what it feels like to scale a wall, our Open Belay & Open Climb program may be right for you. Our friendly staff is on hand during certain hours to belay for new climbers who want to climb a few routes. There is no instruction with this program, it’s just the opportunity to get vertical while we handle all the safety gear.
Do I have to take a class to climb at Sportrock?
No, but it may be a good idea. Believe it or not, climbing is the easy part – there’s no technical skill required as long as your partner (belayer) is qualified to handle the knot-tying and belay technique for you. These are the fundamental skills our Basic Skills class focuses on, but anyone who can demonstrate the proficiency to pass our Top Rope belay test is welcome to climb/belay without taking the class.
The belayer is your climbing partner who stands on the ground and takes out the slack in the rope as you climb - they keep you from falling to the ground when you let go of the wall. Obviously, belaying is a very important skill and requires some specific training. In addition to understanding belay technique, belayers must also be able to identify and tie climbing knots correctly in order to perform a safety check on their climber.
I learned to climb overseas/in the military/decades ago, are my methods acceptable to use here?
That depends. At Sportrock safety is our utmost concern and we take it very seriously. The standards and techniques we teach and require of all participants are those set forth by organizations such as the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) and the Climbing Wall Association (CWA). While other individuals or organizations may have their own way of doing things, anyone who climbs or belays in our facility must adhere to our rigorous safety standards. If you have any questions about acceptable equipment or technique, our staff will be happy to discuss it with you.
My kids want to climb, what can they do?
They can climb our walls instead of yours! We have a variety of children’s programs for ages six and up. One of the most popular options is Kid’s Night, offered every Friday evening at both locations. We also host children’s parties and group climbing events with instructors specially chosen for their ability to provide an encouraging, fun environment. If you’re looking to fill a rainy day at the last minute, our Open Belay & Open Climb programs run on a drop-in basis on weekends and holidays, so no reservations are required.
What are those shorter walls? I don’t see any ropes.
That’s bouldering, a form of climbing on steep, short (10-15 feet high) walls with no ropes involved. Because there are no ropes or knots or belaying involved, there's no technical knowledge or previous experience required.
Since bouldering is on shorter walls, is it easier/safer/for kids only?
No! Bouldering is an intense workout that is challenging for both beginners and experts. Even though the walls are shorter, the hand holds can be more difficult to grip or are farther apart, making it a short but intense climbing experience. For comparison, think of roped climbing as distance running and bouldering as a sprint - each challenging in their own way. As far as the risks involved, when you boulder there are not ropes or harnesses in use, so every fall is a ground fall - gravity works. As such, boulderers must be just as vigilant about safety as those on taller walls.
I have an injured ___________, can I climb?
Ask your doctor. As climbers we get a variety of dents and dings along the way and generally find that for minor issues, listening to your body is the best guide. However, the advice of a qualified medical professional is always the way to go.
What should I wear?
You should probably leave the kilt at home, but otherwise almost anything. Like any athletic activity, freedom of movement is most important followed by dressing for the temperature. Although our facility is climate controlled, it can be a little warm on summer days and sometimes cool in winter. Longer shorts or pants tend to be more comfortable under a harness, rather than the ultra-short running variety.
Can I wear my running shoes/flip flops/Vibram FiveFingers/ninja shoes?
For your first time on the wall, a closed-toe athletic shoe will be a safe bet. To avoid injury we strongly recommend against using "toe shoes," as these do not offer the support or protection needed to safely climb. If you want to try an actual climbing shoe, we have those available for rent as well - try them, you just might be hooked.
I’m exhausted. How do people do this for hours at a time?
Practice and proper technique. Climbing uses muscle groups and body movements that don’t often get much work in other activities, even if you’re a top-notch athlete. The more you climb, the better you will climb. As you progress, our acclaimed series of Fast Forward technique classes will help you at every step along the way. With small class sizes and expert instruction, these courses will help you breakthrough to the next level whether as a beginner or a seasoned climbing veteran.
Do you offer outdoor programs?
Between spring and fall, we’re climbing outdoors almost every weekend. If you want to take a beginner course without sacrificing that perfect summer day, Outdoor Basic Skills is the way to go. Perhaps you’ve been climbing for a while and want to transition to the outdoors – consider a course on Top Rope Anchors or a Private Guiding event to introduce you to the outdoor environment. If you don’t see the perfect option listed, contact us about setting up a custom event for you.
How do I get there?
This page shows our locations, hours and contact info; click on either destination for door-to-door driving directions. Our Alexandria facility is only 200 yards east of the Van Dorn Street station (blue line) if you're coming by Metro.
Contact us here!