T.J. Barley, of Lindenhurst, climbs a rock wall at The...

T.J. Barley, of Lindenhurst, climbs a rock wall at The Gravity Vault in Melville. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

When Amy Kappel signed up for an indoor rock climbing class, she figured it would be a one-time experiment.

“It was on my list of sports that I wanted to try,” says Kappel, who already ran and danced to keep fit. But since she first hit the climbing wall at Island Rock, a facility in Plainview, she’s been back at least a dozen times.

She has no plans to stop. She bought her own climbing gear and feels that she’s become part of a community. “Rock climbing is very challenging and very addicting,” she says.

Many others agree. Local gyms that offer indoor climbing — either exclusively or as part of its overall activities menu — report that interest by beginners and more seasoned climbers is on the rise.

Get geared up for climbing

Climbing facilities provide and sell equipment for the sport. Climbers also recommend REI stores and online retailers. Here are the essentials.

For roped climbing:

  • Climbing shoes designed to grip
  • Harness to connect a climber to the wall
  • Chalk bag to keep your hands dry

For bouldering:

  • Climbing shoes
  • Chalk bag

Climbing is a physical and mental challenge for all ages and body types, and that’s part of the appeal, according to industry insiders. The fact that the sport was introduced at the Tokyo Olympics gave it a global profile.


“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, this is like something that’s an actual fun activity,’ ” says Liam Bello, shift manager and head coach of the youth climbing team at Gravity Vault, a rock gym in Melville. “So now they’re looking to give it a try. Whenever you’re looking to learn something new,” he adds, “you always want some instruction and to work with someone who knows more than you.”

Besides being rain- and sunproof, indoor climbing gyms offer various versions of sport. Some use ropes, some don’t — they all carry risks. Facilities require that you sign a waiver before you climb.

For bouldering, or unroped climbing, you’re relatively low to the ground and surrounded by crash pads if you fall. In top roping, climbers make their way up color-coded routes of varying degrees of difficulty with the rope already through an anchor at the top of the wall.

“Climbing is definitely an emerging industry,” says Ross Slotnick, general manager and vice president of Island Rock in Plainview. “Business is certainly rocking.”

Part of that is owed to necessity. Outdoor climbing options are limited on Long Island, he says, adding, “Geographically speaking, the area isn’t ideal for rock climbing.”


Denise DeLiberti of Seaford has been rock climbing for over a year and she has mightier forearms and grip strength to show for it. There have been other elevating payoffs.

One is a bracing blast of nostalgia. “I loved to climb trees when I was growing up in Levittown,” DeLiberti says. “It was one of my favorite things to do.” Maples and oaks have given way to rock walls (sometimes, out-of-town cliffs) for a similar rush.

The other is a communal buzz. “Climbing is just a very supportive community,” she says. “Everybody is always cheering and encouraging everybody else. I really like that part of it.”

Paul Dlug has about a decade of rock climbing experience under his belt. He co-founded a meetup rock climbing group, Climb On! Long Island. It meets weekly at Island Rock.

“The sport has been growing like crazy,” Dlug says. “The perception is that rock climbers are risk takers, but that’s not the case for most people in my experience. It’s about the challenge and exploring personal limitations. There’s a lot of problem-solving involved in climbing,” he continues. “You learn something new and grow every time you’re climbing, and that’s something that’s very satisfying.”

Kappel seconds that notion. “I remember the first time I went,” she says. “I came out and I was exhausted. My arms were shaking. I was like, ‘I’m never going to be able to do that route.’ ”

In time, she mastered it, urged on by fellow climbers. “I found that you can get pretty good pretty quick,” she says. Bottom line: That rocks.


Clubs offer roped and unroped climbing for various age groups and experience levels.

Island Rock, 60 Skyline Dr., Plainview; 516-822-7625, islandrock.com. Quick-start package includes lesson, day pass, harness and shoe rental for $52. Adult day pass is $25.

Gravity Vault, 40 Melville Park Rd., Melville; 516-777-9255, gravityvault.com. Private session for one or two climbers, $65. Adult day pass, $28. 

LifeTime Syosset, 350 Robbins Lane, Syosset; 516-822-1777, lifetime.life. Day pass for $75 includes access to the entire fitness club including the rock wall. 


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