While some people enjoy scaling rock faces with their bare hands as UV rays penetrate their exposed skin, others prefer a more dermatologist-approved (and weatherproof) climbing environment. Fortunately, Austin has plenty of indoor climbing venues. Here are six of the city’s most popular establishments for putting your agility and finger strength to the test — after you fill out a release waiver.
Austin Bouldering Project
Austin Bouldering Project is the city’s latest, and potentially greatest, indoor climbing complex. The East Austin facility contains a yoga studio; a weight room; a lounge area; healthy food; a kiddie wall; and a giant bouldering arena full of Big Ass Fans, crash pads, and colorful “jugs” (climber lingo for grips) on every surface. ABP also offers free classes for beginners on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Visit once with a $16 day pass (shoes included on your first visit), or sign up for one of four membership options and use the facilities as much as you’d like. There's a 10-punch card for anyone interested in repeated visits without the monthly commitment.
South Austin Rock Gym
In an unremarkable office complex located just south of Ben White Boulevard sits an unbelievable climbing gym featuring 30-foot sculpted and textured walls containing over 10,000 square feet of routes for climbers of every experience level. The gym also offers a variety of top-rope and lead routes for the brave souls who aren’t afraid to get a little higher off the ground. Although the facilities aren’t as pristine as ABP’s, the rates are a bit cheaper, leaving you more money to spend on intense classes, ranging from the four-week Climbing 101 to a 17-hour class that concludes with a trip to Enchanted Rock.
North Austin Rock Gym
On the opposite side of town, in an equally inconspicuous building, you’ll find SARG’s sibling location. Although these gyms may belong to the same family, their routes are uniquely their own. NARG’s key differentiator is “The Big Pig,” a 24-foot bouldering wall with some of the best indoor bouldering angels in the country (or so they claim). The rate package is the same as SARG’s, with paid-in-full memberships granting you unlimited access to both gyms. And if you and a buddy show up on Friday between 6 and 10 pm, you’ll both get in for $20 (a $10 savings). The gym also offers free yoga and core classes Monday through Thursday evenings.
University of Texas Gregory Gymnasium
The most centrally located bouldering wall in Austin is hidden in UT’s Gregory Gymnasium. Not a student? No worries. You don’t have to enroll in classes to scale this wall; you just have to purchase a guest pass in addition to a climbing wall day pass. The whole ordeal will run you about $20, but you’ll also have access to all the gym equipment, racquetball courts, pools, and locker facilities the state’s biggest university has to offer.
Pure Austin Quarry Lake
Also in the $20-per-day range is Pure Austin’s Quarry Lake location. The wall isn’t huge, but it is tall enough to offer both top-rope climbing and bouldering. And like Gregory Gymnasium, you’ll have access to all of the amenities, including namesake Quarry Lake. Pure Austin probably isn’t the best option if you plan on taking bouldering seriously, but if you live up north and want an activity to break up the monotony of your workout routine, this modest rock wall may do the trick.
The strangest — yet surprisingly legit — location has to be Main Event Entertainment. Walk past the bowling alleys, the laser tag arena, and all the arcade games, and you’ll find a 9,000-square-foot rock climbing arena that’s perfect for pros and novices alike. Main Event offers a monthly rock climbing membership for $64 per month plus tax. And for individual visits, prices are $8.45 for half an hour, $10.45 for an hour, and $12.45 for an hour and a half, shoes included.