Review of L’escalade climbing gym in Lexington

 photo kff climbing3_zpsofyec0gn.jpgRock climbing is a sport that can be practiced indoors or out, depending on the weather. We are fortunate to have several rock climbing gyms in Louisville, but sometimes we like to explore rock climbing gyms with things we can’t find in Louisville, especially when the weather is not right for climbing outdoors someplace like the Red River Gorge. Typically we go to Climb NuLu, but since it is an all bouldering gym we have to check out other places to practice certain skills. That’s why on occasion we head to Lexington to check out L’escalade Climbing Gym.

LEF Fitness is Kentucky’s newest and largest indoor climbing facility. One of the biggest draws for my family is the auto-belayers. Typically when you rock climb, whether indoors or outdoors, you need an experienced person to belay for you, or work the mechanism that keeps you from falling to the Earth and turning into a pancake. This slows down the process of climbing because you have to have two people in a harness at a time and only one of them can be climbing. Auto-belayers mean that all three climbers in my family can be climbing at the same time and no one has to be holding the ropes.

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It’s the same for bouldering walls – no one needs to hold the rope there because no ropes are required for these shorter walls with thick heavy pads underneath. LEF Fitness has several bouldering areas as well. There is an area with mixed bouldering, top-roping, and auto-belayers for beginners and there is a separate bouldering area for advanced climbers.

In addition to beginner areas, an auto-belaying section, and an advanced bouldering section, LEF Fitness also has a multitude of top-roping and lead climbing options. Top-roping is what you typically think of when you think about a climbing gym (such as Rocksport in Louisville). There are ropes hanging down and you have to harness in the climber to one end of the rope and the belayer to the other and the belayer pulls more rope through the belay device as the climber gets closer to the top, leaving a shorter fall for the climber.

 photo kff climbing_zps0pkrtc9v.jpgLead climbing is a little more advanced than that. The belayer is working in reverse of that, feeding rope to the climber as he or she ascends and clips into each bolt. This is the kind of skills you will need to practice in order to go climbing outdoors – you wouldn’t trust a rope that had been hanging down the side of a cliff for who knows how long, so you have to take your own rope up with you. Oftentimes the first climber up will clip in to the bolts and then rappel down so other climbers can then top-rope.

LEF climbing is a great place for serious climbers to practice all of these skills in one place. And even though we went on a Saturday when it was crazy busy, there are enough places for people to climb that it never felt particularly overcrowded.

My only complaint about this gym is that there is an age limit rather than a skills limit for belayers. They have to be 14 and my son, who belays for his dad in Red River Gorge and Joshua Tree National Park, is way off from being able to belay for him indoors at 10 years old. Fortunately the auto-belayers always save the day.

If your family likes rock climbing or wants to learn more about different kinds of rock climbing, it is well worth the drive to Lexington to check out L’Escalade Rock Climbing Gym.

By guest contributor: