From Gym to Crag: A Preview of ROCK Project Tour 2015 in Seattle

This climber knows there's a lot to the sport beyond the gym.
This climber knows there's a lot to the sport beyond the gym. Samantha Larson
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If you’re a climber who has learned to crimp, pinch, and jam in a gym and are now ready to test out your skills on real rock, your opportunity may be just around the corner. The ROCK Project Tour 2015, designed for climbers who want to make the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing, is coming to Seattle on September 19 and 20.

Organized by the Access Fund, a national advocacy and conservation organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open, the event features clinics to hone climbing skills, presentations from pros like Tommy Caldwell (this is your chance to hear about his historic Dawn Wall climb firsthand), and of course, good, old-fashioned rock climbing—all while learning about the importance of taking care of our local crags. Tickets cost $75.

It wasn’t too long ago that climbing was still a relatively fringe sport, because it was generally only available to those with the freedom to spend a lot of time outdoors and an experienced mentor to learn the ropes from. Over the last few years, however, the proliferation of indoor climbing gyms has made the sport much more accessible, with more and more adventurers wanting to get in on the action.

But while gyms have made it easier to learn the moves, there's still plenty for beginning climbers to learn when it comes to taking that knowledge to an outdoor environment, both skills-wise and with respect to stewardship over popular local areas like Index, Leavenworth, or Little Si. The ROCK Project Tour’s goal is to help fill in those gaps.

Climbing gyms are fun -- but getting outdoors is even better.
Climbing gyms are fun -- but getting outdoors is even better. Aleksandr Zykov

ROCK Project Tour “is an education movement in the climbing community to address the growing popularity of the sport,” explains Travis Herbert, event organizer and Access Fund education director. “As more and more people come to climbing, it’s important that they have the skills and knowledge to take care of the outdoor environment.”


But this isn’t just about the lecture: The conservation tenets that make up the Access Fund Pact (see pros take the pact in the video above) will be craftily embedded throughout the event’s two days.

Saturday day begins at Vertical World with clinics led by pro climbers and instructors that focus either on trad, sport, or bouldering. The day wraps up with a party featuring food, beer, and presentations from pros including Caldwell, Alex Johnson, Sam Elias, and Sonnie Trotter. (The party is included with the weekend ticket, free for current Access Fund or Washington Climbers Coalition members, and $35 for everyone else, which includes an annual Access Fund membership.)

The routes at Index will certainly put your gym skills to the test.
The routes at Index will certainly put your gym skills to the test. Samantha Larson

On Sunday, the tour heads out to Index, a favorite local crag. Here, weekend participants will help with stewardship projects that include removing invasive species, trail work, and trash cleanup—with the pros working alongside you. “The athletes participate in everything, so even if you didn’t get into the trad clinic, there’s a chance on Saturday you could be hanging with Tommy doing a stewardship project,” Herbert says.

The projects will be followed by an afternoon of open climbing with the athletes and guides, giving you the chance to put some of the lessons from the day before to use. And, of course, the chance to practice being a responsible outdoor climber: “We’re really trying to put those lessons of the indoor to outdoor transition into practice,” Herbert says.

The weekend will wrap up with a barbecue and after party at the Index Outdoor Adventure Center, which will be open to anyone who wants to drop by.

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