With nighttime temperatures already hitting the 40s in the Midwest, it’s no longer an option for Chicago rock climbers to head north to Wisconsin for a weekend of sending routes in Devil’s Lake State Park. For many, that means it’s time to scope out a new winter training spot. Despite it’s flat surroundings, Chicago features a surprisingly large climbing community and a handful of rock gyms. Here are a few local favorites:
Housed in the bottom of a gymnastics gym in River West, this grungy bouldering cave is known for turning out particularly strong climbers. Hidden Peak’s youth team tears up national competitions and many of their climbers have even been seen competing at worldwide levels.
-The tight-knit community gives it a feel that’s less corporate and more like a co-op.
-The manager, Dave Hudson, changes up problems on a regular basis so there’s always a fresh problem to climb.
-Climbers there know what they’re doing, but they’re still friendly and happy to help out beginners.
-Those seeking high climbs won’t be sold on the mostly bouldering style.
Chicago Athletic Clubs:
Three of Chicago Athletic Clubs’ locations feature rock climbing, including the gyms in Evanston, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. From overhangs to higher heights, the three spots offer just about every type of climb possible.
-CAC rock walls offer a good amount of variation. There’s a nearly 50-foot wall and a separate bouldering cave.
-Classes are offered, but most are for beginners, just starting out.
-Like with most rock gyms located in athletic club, the climbers are more sweaty weight lifters, dragging themselves up the wall, than skilled climbers.
-There isn’t much of a community feel.
The University of Illinois’ Rock Wall:
In the past couple years, the University of Illinois, Chicago has been working to take their outdoor recreation community up a notch. They took a step in the right direction by bringing Courtney De Paulo on staff as the Outdoor Adventure Coordinator. Student recreation staff, like De Paulo, work to plan outdoor climbing opportunities for UIC students, among other adventures in the Great Outdoors. The school's even hosted Reel Rock for the past two years.
-The staff is skilled and knowledgeable.
-UIC offers outdoor opportunities and some climbing workshops for its students.
-The wall itself is 43 feet tall and complete with top-rope, auto-belay and even a little bouldering.
-There’s only one wall to climb.
-Hours are pretty limited. The wall’s only open in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons.