A massive rock climbing facility is slated to open in Long Island City in April, featuring 30,000 square feet of climbing space that can fit 500 climbers at once. The venue, The Cliffs, will be one of the biggest gyms in the country.
The Cliffs should entice plenty of clients, given that rock climbing is reportedly the fastest growing indoor sport in the country. There is, however, more than one way to tackle a rock face. Here are three intriguing rock sports that probably won’t be available in any gym.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, we stumble on a new sport that is just as hard-core as anything else we have covered: rock jumping. On the adrenaline scale, rock jumping comes close to speed climbing and free solo climbing. In this sport you have to sustain a 100 percent success rate. Oh yes, you may have a rope round your waist, but it will only stop you plunging to the foot of the chasm. You will nonetheless take some serious knocks as you kiss up to the base tower. Judging by the New York Times, the brutal, pulse-pounding sport at least dates back to 1997. That year a bouncing Czech named Oxygen took a deep breath and threw himself across a local abyss called “Amerika” in the only recorded Grade 5 leap. The abyss – almost 10-foot-wide – divided two 100-foot sandstone spires. The location was a remote conserved wilderness area in the northeast of the Czech Republic. Remote Eastern Europe is a long way for most of us, but you can rock jump in all kinds of places. All you need is the right divide and a fearless mentality.
Another way to take on serious rock faces is to seek out one integrated into a volcano. Live or dormant. Take your pick. Volcano climbing is for adventurers who are ready to push their limits across a beautiful but testing landscape. Theoretically, you could zero in on any volcano, but the sport has gained a significant following in Mexico, where you can apply yourself to a range of bulging rips in the Earth’s crust that are perfect for climbing. Looking for another prime volcano climbing destination? You can hike to the top of South Iceland’s Hekla Volcano. The second most active volcano in Iceland, Hekla has erupted many times, including once in February 2000. Its nickname is “The Gateway to Hell,” so be warned this may not be an easy conquest. Other global hotspots include Pinatubo in the Philippines, Pacaya in Antigua, Chile’s Pucon and Bali. Oh, and the U.S. has its share of volcano climbing options. Think Mt. St Helens and Mt. Redoubt in Alaska. Be careful on the journey when you get to climb right into the crater, feel fizzing lava splash around you and inhale the stench of sulfur.
We did signal that in this post we were going way off-grid. Like rock jumping, rock skiing is a deeply maverick sport that you are unlikely to find advertised at any travel agent. Rock skiing only leaves thin traces on the web, but it is no myth. It can be done if you can combine formidable balance and agility with immense nerve. Just don’t expect your skis to be in one piece at the end of your high-impact, winding descent that may feature brushes with shrubs, sticks and sharp fragments. Use beat-up skis you feel happy to use and abuse when snow coverage is sketchy to non-existent. You could start out training on sandy beaches and test your skills. Then, if you are looking for a rock skiing venue with some kind of history and company, try Austrian Tyrol – specifically the picturesque village of Haiming, 28 miles west of Innsbruck. There, long after the official skiing season has ended, Adrenalists climb a rock-covered slope on foot. Then they tear through surprisingly sizable gravel, leaving a slipstream of dust.