Ty Gagne's From High Places: Indoor rock climbing walls are perfect way to prep for outsideBy TY GAGNE September 14. 2018 7:35PM
Mark Vasta has a passion for the indoors - but you won't find him couch surfing for hours watching television.
Vasta's love is the thrill and challenge of indoor climbing. Vasta is the general manager of Concord based EVO Rock and Fitness. The indoor climbing gym encompasses 16,000 square feet and up to 45-foot walls hosting dozens of routes and varying degrees of difficulty.
Indoor climbing walls have been around for decades. What started as a way for rock climbers to train and stay in shape during the colder months by constructing creative setups in their garage or basement has advanced into expansive hubs like EVO that draw large numbers to the vertical year-round.
"It's much easier to access the sport through a climbing gym," Vasta said. "It's a controlled environment, and most people start out here top roping. With top roping, the ropes are already up and fixed, and once you learn to tie the appropriate knot and belay you're on your way."
Like many climbing gyms, EVO offers classes on belaying and basic climbing techniques, and also more advanced options that introduce technical movements and techniques. The cost of a basic course includes the use of climbing-specific shoes and a harness, which students can then use if they choose to stay after the class to climb and practice what they've learned. "Auto-belayers" allow someone who doesn't have a belay partner to safely climb alone, but Vasta said "most who come to the gym are looking for a shared climbing experience and camaraderie."
The gym also has lead climbing and bouldering options. Lead climbing requires the climber to "clip in" to protection along the route while being belayed from below. Bouldering, which is an effective way to develop skills and strength, requires no rope because the climber is low to the ground and protected by mats or other cushioning on the floor.
While EVO is active on a year-round basis, the nicer weather does draw more people to outdoor climbing areas such as Rumney, North Conway and Pawtuckaway State Park. But Vasta said this summer in particular was busy for the climbing gym.
"With the high humidity at the end of July and through August, people wanted to get inside out of the heat," he said. "It's a sport driven by weather, and the gym allows for people to climb and train whenever they want to."
In addition to climbing, EVO offers yoga and spin classes, and has treadmills and free weights on site. It offers punch cards and monthly and annual memberships, and members have the benefit of additional access to the facility outside of normal operating hours.
EVO Rock and Fitness is located on 10 Langdon Ave. in Concord. For hours and pricing, visit www.evorock.com/concord-nh or call 715-9171.
Ty Gagne lives, works and climbs (not often enough) in New Hampshire. He is the author of "Where You'll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova" (TMC Books, 2017), and a contributor to the AMC's journal, Appalachia.