by Frances Hebron/Staff Writer
With temperatures still on the chilly side, it has been a bit difficult for adrenaline junkies to get their fix. There are not many places around that can promise excitement and a wonderful workout, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worst. However, for thrill seekers less than one hundred miles to the north lay a safe haven. Professionals and beginners willing to travel can take to the walls and climb to their heart’s content.
Upper Limits, an indoor rock gym and pro shop in Bloomington, IL, provides over 20,000 square feet of climbing space, including five silos turned into climbing surfaces. Inside the walls reach about thirty feet high and range from easy walls with hand and foot holds located closely together to inverted walls that provide quite the challenge.
Climbers who wish to take advantage of the walls and silos must take a class in what is known as belay. It is the belayer’s job to take in the slack of the rope as the person climbs and stop the climber from falling to the ground should he or she let go of the wall. If a climber already has experience in the technique, they may take a test to demonstrate their knowledge and then be allowed to climb. For people with no belay experience who wish to climb without taking the class, there are autobelays available. These devices take in the slack of the rope while the climber ascends the wall and slowly lets out the rope when the climber lets go of the wall, lowering he or she to the ground.
Along with their rock walls and climbing surfaces that require ropes and harnesses, Upper Limits has shorter walls for a different climbing experience, known as bouldering. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that takes place without the use of ropes and harnesses. The height climbed is no higher than ten feet at Upper Limits. While boulderers (climbers who participate in bouldering) do not use all the same safety equipment, they do still utilize climbing shoes which allow climbers to grip foot holds more easily, chalk to keep their hands dry, and what is known as a bouldering mat, which is typically a very thick mat that is put down below the climbing area to ensure the safety of the climber should he or she fall.
Along with the belay class, Upper Limits also offers Rock Gym 101 and 102, where climbers will learn basic climbing techniques, outdoor climbing classes, family classes and private lessons. All of the equipment needed for the classes, general climbing and bouldering is available for rent or purchase at Upper Limits.
For those with an adventurous side, rock climbing is a great way to get moving, regardless of weather, and is fun for all ages and experience levels.