As long ago as the mid-1960s, climbers discovered they could mount artificial handholds on a wall and create an indoor arena to practice rock climbing moves and get stronger for climbing. In recent decades, commercial climbing gyms have sprung up around the country; and many fitness centers, high school and college campuses, and parks and recreation departments have installed climbing walls and artificial boulders alongside their weight rooms and lap pools.
Today's climbing gym offers dozens of individual climbing routes created from artificial handholds and footholds that are bolted to vertical and overhanging walls. The routes are often changed to create new challenges. Climbers are attracted to indoor gyms because they offer a comfortable place to climb, practice, train, and compete. Gyms have contributed to a rapid increase in climbing standards of difficulty in recent years; some climbers only climb indoors.
Most gyms offer a combination of lead-climbing routes, top-ropes, and boulder problems to suit climbers of all abilities and interests. Many also have auto-belay devices that allow a person to climb even if he or she does not have a climbing partner. Lead climbs in climbing gyms are almost always protected by bolts, so climbers do Dot need to carry any of their own protection. The floor of climbing gyms are usually covered with thick mats or other padding to protect against injury in case of an uncontrolled fall.
Because of the Inherent dangers of the sport, Indoor climbing gyms follow rigorous risk and safety procedures. Members of the Climbing Wall Association adhere to standardized Industry Practices that are frequently updated. All visitors to a climbing gym typically sign participation agreements, and anyone who wants to practice roped climbing unsupervised must pass a belaying and climbing test to demonstrate competence with the basic safety systems and climbing commands. Gyms often provide instruction to novices to get them started. Indeed, many of the best climbers in the world started out as complete novices in their local climbing gym.