Ever since the massive success of films like Free Solo, more and more people have turned their eyes to the world of climbing. Amongst them, many have decided to give it a try for themselves, filling up gym walls in cities across the country. Since it’s a sport I hold near and dear to my heart (I’ve lost over 25 pounds this past year while doing it), I’ve felt obligated to let people know about the best places to climb in our area. With that mission in mind, I recently paid a visit to the Rockreation gym in nearby Costa Mesa to see what they have to offer.

From the second my brother, our friend and I step in, we’re met with a warm energy from the gym’s staff. They guide us to the waiver we need to fill out (standard practice for any climbing gym you’re using for the first time), and welcome us in after we pay $20 for a day pass. 

Rockcreation (Brandy Young)

Looking at the walls, the first description that came to our minds was “old school.” Their walls, outside of the brightly colored holds, mimicked natural rocks, even including the sort of features you’d see on rocks outdoors. Excited to see how these could be utilized during our climb, we headed over to the lockers to get changed and start our climb.

Heading toward these lockers, we passed through a beautifully modern exercise area, complete with hang boards, sturdy pull-up bars, weights and even treadmills and bikes. Depending on your fitness goals, this section alone could replace your standard (non-climbing) gym. They keep up the modern trend with their bathrooms and showers as well, which were pristine and well stocked.

Walking back towards the walls, we were hit with a pleasant surprise: fresh air. Until then, we hadn’t noticed the massive garage door built into the side of the gym. What was once a leftover feature of the previous business in this space was now this gym’s most unique asset, as they were able to crack it open to bring in some fresh air for us and our fellow climbers. 

We decided to start in the bouldering section of the gym. For those unfamiliar, “bouldering” refers to when you climb a shorter wall without the assistance of ropes. There, we were welcomed by a wide array of settings, featuring a strong variety of inclines and route types meant to test the full scope of a climber’s strengths. 

We also recognized a wide variety of difficulties, although the difficulty markers were unfortunately missing the day I came. The staff explained that they had a competition the night before, and had the categorized the routes based on a point system. We figured this would be sufficient, but the amount of points wasn’t always proportional to difficulty (to me, at least), and they hadn’t put up the standard markers for at least two hours after they opened. 

Rockcreation (Brandy Young)

All that being said, though, it encouraged us to try the sorts of routes we wouldn’t normally attempt, and our workout was uninhibited overall. They utilized their space to the fullest, and features like the arch made their facility stand out among many others I’ve visited before. We also appreciated that they had individual fall mats that we needed to move around. One might think this is inconvenient at first, but the fact that mat adjustment is essential in outdoor climbing made this feature stand out as an excellent way for people to practice placement.

Moving over to the rope climbing section, which takes up a majority of the space in this gym, there were very few complaints to be had. Besides the fact that they don’t lend out lead ropes, which is standard in other gyms, this section has plenty to offer. Besides the wide variety of standard routes, which bore standard difficulty labels, there were also quite a few options for crack climbers too (for the unfamiliar, this simply involves climbing by sticking your hands and feet in a crack that goes all the way up the wall). Even routes that were at and below my skill level provided interesting challenges, engaging my brain along with my muscles. 

So now you might be wondering: How much does a membership with this place cost? Well, given the offered amenities, the $75 monthly membership for adults, with a $100 start fee, is not too surprising. Considering the day pass costs $20, this is pretty sensible for those planning on making regular visits. The membership also includes free yoga classes and unlimited use of the exercise area, so the bang for your buck is certainly there.

Rockcreation (Brandy Young)

Their program offerings are something to note as well; they offer climbing classes for kids and adults alike, a homeschool program, a climbing camp, fitness classes, yoga classes, team building exercises for companies, and more. They even host birthday parties if you’re looking to spice things up on your kid’s special day.

If you’re looking to get your kids into team sports outside of school, look no further than Rockreation’s Rock Warriors program. For kids that are just starting out or focusing on the fundamentals, the club team provides a fun yet structured environment for them to hone their skills.

When they want to take things to the next level, though, they can try out for the Advanced Team, where they’ll be training to participate in local and regional USA Climbing-sanctioned competitions. Lastly, for those a few cuts above the rest, the Elite Team is reserved for aspiring champions, enduring a rigorous training program that’ll help them excel in competitions ranging from the local to national level. Inclusion on these teams isn’t covered by the membership fee, though, so make sure you take a look at the rates on their website.

Overall, if you’re craving a classic climbing gym experience that doesn’t forego modern amenities, I definitely recommend you give this place a shot. From the friendly staff, to the extensive variety of routes, to the wide assortment of programs, there’s an awful lot to love here.

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