Your guide to the Milwaukee rock climbing scene

YOU DON’T HAVE TO ADVENTURE to the Rockies – or even Devil’s Lake – to rock climb. Indoor gymnasiums make it easy to try out this sport for a fun afternoon with a few friends. And you might find that climbing a giant wall isn’t as difficult (or scary) as you think.


Rock climbing can seem intimidating, but it’s an ideal sport for beginners. “You don’t need any equipment or experience to try it in a gym,” says Craig Burzynski, co-owner of Adventure Rock, one of Milwaukee’s climbing gyms.

According to Burzynski, beginners can expect a similar experience at most reputable gyms. After signing liability forms, a member of staff teaches you how to use the equipment and helps you determine which type of climbing is best for you. A single climb can take a few minutes, but Burzynski says people often spend hours; most gyms have multiple routes that vary in difficulty.


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How to choose a climb

There are a few types of climbing to consider. In top roping, you are tied to the wall with ropes controlled by a person on the ground called a belayer. In lead climbing, you bring the rope with you, clipping into the wall along the way. Bouldering, or free climbing, involves climbing side by side on shorter walls without ropes. It’s harder than it looks: “You do five moves and you get tired,” says Burzynski.

Beginners and kids might enjoy Adventure Rock’s self-belay feature, which uses machines to remove knots and keep ropes out of the equation. Turner Hall, another local gymnasium, has no
self-belaying machine, but manager Kim Kosmitis recommends clip-and-go climbing for brand-new climbers.
“We teach them to belay on our devices, then they climb predefined routes,” he says.

Lead climbing and top rope are better options for advanced climbers, but even beginner climbs are challenging – in a good way. In addition to the full-body workout (expect to ache after your first ascent), figuring out the best way to climb the wall can be mentally exhausting — and rewarding.

If fear stands between you and climbing, Kosmitis assures first-timers, that’s for sure, and that even the least athletic people can learn to climb a wall successfully. “Don’t be judgmental about what you think you can do,” he says. “Think about your goal, and if it’s to get up 10 feet, so be it.”

adventure rock

↗ Riverwest, Brookfield, Walker’s Point (bouldering only) | $24

↗ Rope, bouldering, lead climbing and self-belaying

Turner room

↗ 1034 Vel R. Phillips Avenue | Adults: $20, students: $15

↗ Rope, lead climbing and bouldering



Virginia F. Goins