Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Central Rock Gym a fun way to get in your exercise

Central Rock Gym, located on Rt. 9 in Hadley, is a rock climber’s paradise. Instead of rows of cardio and strength equipment, the gym features walls for climbing on, a cave for climbing in and squishy, blue floors for falling on. And, there is a lot of falling in this gym.

While the walls, which tower 10 to 20 feet overhead, probably look daunting to an inexperienced climber, they vary in difficulty. Central Rock general manager Patrick Dolan assures that the walls can be approached by both novices and experienced climbers.

The routes are all ranked in a difficulty from 5.5 to 5.12 using the Yosemite Decimal Scale, where a 5 is considered true rock climbing. The easier routes have hand and foot holds that are closer together and are usually straight, while the more challenging routes are considerably more rigorous, sometimes involving jumping from one foot hold to another point of contact.

The gym offers three types of climbing – bouldering, top-rope climbing and lead climbing.

Bouldering is done without a harness or being attached to a rope. It is done on a shorter wall and involves a great deal of strength.

“Bouldering is short and much more strength-based,” said recent Smith graduate Charlotte Valentine, a frequent climber at Central Rock. “There are a lot fewer moves so they have to be more powerful, and more technique-based.”

Top-rope climbing is what people tend to think of when they think of rock climbing, a high route where the climber is strapped in, and there is a pulley system for the rope at the top of the climb that is connected to a belayer, someone who watches and holds the rope in case the climber falls.

Lead climbing is the most dangerous, and perhaps most difficult, form of climbing. The climber is harnessed, but instead of having a rope leading them, the climber brings the rope with him and using pegs, anchors it to the wall himself while climbing.

“Lead climbing is my favorite,” said Valentine.

In order to keep the gym challenging, the routes are frequently changed so that climbers have new puzzles to figure out.

“I love how often they change the routes here,” said University of Massachusetts freshman Austin Cohn, who visits the gym four to five days a week. An experienced climber, Cohn coaches a youth rock climbing team and ranks fifth in the nation. He has been climbing and competing since his brother introduced him to the sport of rock climbing seven years ago.

In order to learn how to tackle the more difficult routes, the gym offers three levels of classes and a belay course.

“If you’ve been coming in a few times and you want to get better quicker, you would probably want to jump into one of the technique classes,” said Dolan.

Dolan recommends that people come in clothing that they can easily and comfortably move in such as shorts and a t-shirt.

“Rock climbing is a very flexible sport. It involves lots of twisting and is very dynamic,” said Dolan.

The gym opened last March and is owned by Joe and Ed Hardy, who also own another Central Rock Gym in Worcester. According to Patrick Dolan, the general manager, business has been good since the gym opened.

“We get lots of people,” said Dolan. “There is a huge college population that comes in.”

The gym is busiest in the winter, when the natural rock climbing crags are frozen over and it is too cold to climb outside, according to Dolan.

“This is training for the summer,” said Valentine, who also climbs outside.

Valentine said that even though many of the moves are the same whether climbing inside or outside, the texture of the rock is a lot different, causing a different climbing experience.

The rock gym offers a full rental package for $7, which includes harness, shoes, belaying equipment and chalk bag. They also offer belay classes, a wide variety of day passes, membership options and technique classes. They also hold birthday parties and scout events.

For $25 you can climb for two hours on Saturdays 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., climbing pass and gear included. The gym also offers yoga classes and special deals and offers such as Ladies Night on Mondays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., Guys Night Tuesdays at the same time, College Nights on Thursdays, and free pizza.

Steffi Porter contributed to this report

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]

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