Q1/ What do you say to help beginning climbers, like myself, get over any initial apprehensions and just start climbing?

Mark/ Just start climbing. Sign up for an intro course with one of the local gyms.

Editor’s note: You can also contact any area climbing gym and inquire about how to get started. Do you have a suggestion on how we can help you get started in climbing? If so, write to Mark Lamendola: [email protected].

Q2/ Compare gym climbing to ‘traditional’ climbing [for those of us newbies who question whether this is a real or an ‘extreme’ type of sport].

Mark/ Gym climbing is real. You will see it in the Olympics, in three forms: bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing. It is an extreme sport, placing extreme demands on the athlete. That is a big part of its appeal.

Editor’s note: According to Mark Lamendola in the May 2020 Mension, “Gym climbing is considered an extreme sport not because of danger but because of its extreme demands on your cognitive and physical powers. If you want a mentally challenging sport that will also help you develop lung power, core strength, flexibility, and balance then climbing would easily make your short list.” See our climbing videos: https://tinyurl.com/ClimbingSIGChannel.

Q3/ What are the out-of-pocket expenses, in terms of equipment costs and gym fees, to move potential climbers quickly and safely into wall climbing?

Mark/ Rental fees are posted on each gym’s website. Typically, it’s $17 or $18 for shoe rental and a day pass. If you buy your own shoes ($100 for beginner level shoes) and a 10-punch card, you climb for about $12 each time. There is plenty of equipment you can buy or rent, but nothing other than shoes that you must buy or rent (unless you want to do top-roping, which requires taking a class and renting or owning a harness).

Q4/ Most of us don’t want to embarrass ourselves by starting a strange, new activity. Any suggestions?

Mark/ Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Every climber fails, that’s what we do most of the time. It is a huge, huge bugaboo to criticize another climber simply because your abilities are greater than theirs. Do that, and nobody will climb with you. Climbing gyms are very social, and it’s a positive environment.

Q5/ What are your personal goals and dreams for achievement in this sport? For group participation in this special interest group (SIG)?

Mark/ I still have not sent a V7 or 5.11d. I want to keep progressing. The social aspects are the most important to me, so even if I don’t become much better as a climber, I will probably enjoy climbing for many years to come. As a SIG, I think we have maxed out with the participation. Someone else would need to start a SIG for new climbers, perhaps where all of the members sign up for a class and take it together.