For Christmas I gave my husband a coupon book for “12 Dates in 2012.” These were activities that I knew he would love or he has always wanted to do, but perhaps took me out of my comfort zone (of sitting on the couch watching TV). Taking advantage of a rare day off together with the toddler at daycare, last week he cashed in his coupon for Vertical Endeavors. We were going climbing, y’all.
Neither of us had ever climbed anything more than a steep hill, so we were complete newbies at this. And when they heard this, the employees at Vertical Endeavors were practically giddy with excitement. We went to the new Minneapolis location, which, with 28,000 square feet of climbing walls reaching 60 feet in the air, is one of the country’s largest climbing facilities. (There are three other locations, including St. Paul, Duluth and Warrenville, Ill.)
Photo by Amanda Fretheim Gates
If you’re new like us, you start off with a brief orientation, where said giddy employee shows you the ropes (ha!), teaches you how to clip on and use the automatic belays, and breaks down the site rules. There are several heights of climbing walls as well as bouldering areas, where you can Spiderman up and down cave walls. (More experienced climbers can do tougher climbs if they have with them an experienced belayer.)
And then they let you go at it. I was a little surprised that they didn’t guide us through proper climbing technique, but instead just made sure we wouldn’t injure ourselves—which of course was much appreciated. With automatic belaying, you clip the rope to your belt and start to climb. There are different levels along each wall, so we started with the “easier” ones. Once you’ve climbed to the top, or in my case as far up as you can go (halfway, maybe), all you have to do is let go and you’ll slowly sail down to the ground. It’s really slick.
In just an hour’s time, we were sweating and exhausted, and completely humbled by the kids seven years old and younger who were cruising up and down with ease. (Hey, they weigh less!) My husband woke up sore the next day, but anxious to get back. I woke up just happy to have helped him discover a new workout he enjoys.
After we left, we were starving. Several dining places surround the corner of 26th and Nicollet, including Jasmine 26, The Bad Waitress, Pancho Villa, and The Black Forest Inn. We drove a couple more blocks down 26th to the Bulldog and had yummy sandwiches and a nice cold Summit (this time I’ll leave out the obvious pun).
Vertical Endeavors offers classes, leagues, and climbing trips and can accommodate anyone of any ability. The staff is incredibly friendly and, while difficult, the act of climbing is fairly self explanatory. It’s a great activity all year round, but especially awesome during a cold winter’s day when you’re striving to experience something new.