Is There a Conspiracy for Indoor Rock Climbing?

If you perceive the world largely through media, and you believe in conspiracies, you’d think the Climbing Wall Association was a master manipulator. But that’s only if you believe in conspiracies.

Since Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson freed the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, traditional media outlets, for example The New York Times, have been putting more climbing stories into the mainstream U.S. media market than ever before. If you read this The New Yorker article, you might extrapolate that the publishers are trying to tap into the millennial generation and trying to keep their interest.

The stories since the Dawn Wall ascent haven’t, however, been about new routes on granite in Yosemite or nuttall sandstone in the New River Gorge. Rather, they have been about the social movement toward climbing that has already been underway for well over a decade. The focus of which has been on the attraction of the indoor climbing experience:

  • In the same article from The New Yorker on March 30, it alleged that indoor rock climbing is the new tennis for networking.
  • Men’s Journal said indoor rock climbing is the new CrossFit on April 2.
  • On March 12, The New York Times attributes the leap in climbing skills outside on rock in the younger climbers to the proliferation of climbing inside.
  • Smaller papers have stories too, but they’re making less provocative statements.

The rise of indoor rock climbing has been happening for years, but the popularity among younger climbers has lead to more gyms; nine percent more in 2014 alone and an unprecedented 15 percent increase in bouldering-specific indoor climbing gyms during the same period, according to the Climbing Business Journal.

I have always climbed in an indoor gym. My first was near Niagara Falls, NY in the mid-90s, but it was merely a substitute for climbing in the Adirondacks, which was a six-hour drive from home; the gym was only 30 minutes away. But recently, indoor climbing gyms have become a destination even on my business trips just to get a feel for what climbers in another town value and enjoy.

Maybe I am catching the fire, but I don’t even look down at indoor climbing any longer. But Justin Roth, who manages marketing communications, social media, and public relations for Petzl America and keeps his own blog at The Stone Mind, put everything into proper perspective in a recent blog post: “Indoor climbing is no longer just preparation for outdoor climbing; it is its own pursuit.”

So if it’s not a conspiracy, is it a movement?

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