Vertical eXcape offers headlamp climb

Griffin Fletcher

Vertical eXcape Climbing Center hosted its second-ever Headlamp Climb Saturday night.

With standard facility hours ranging from noon to 10 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, the Headlamp Climb allowed visitors to climb after hours amidst a live DJ and climbing surfaces illuminated by nothing but individual headlamps and multi-colored strobe lights.

Though a fun and family-friendly event, the Headlamp Climb is a simulation of real outdoor climbing in low-light situations and can be used to improve climbers’ confidence in climbing at night.

Vertical eXcape General Manager Denton Cable noted the Headlamp Climb’s role in bettering both climbers’ outdoor and nighttime skills.

“Obviously, people climb at night, so we’re trying to just simulate that,” Cable said. “The goal is to practice here, and then to go outside and climb on real rocks.”

Because Vertical eXcape is the only indoor climbing gym in Bowling Green, it’s important its facilities accurately depict the rigors of outdoor climbing.

Vertical eXcape achieves this by offering three main forms of climbing, such as top rope, in which one person climbs and another belays by exerting tension upon the climber’s rope and ensures the climber does not fall, auto belay, where climbers may climb without assistance from another person and bouldering, which involves climbing on boulders and small rock formations without the use of ropes or harnesses. Sport climbing is offered at Vertical eXcape as well, but is reserved for experienced climbers.

Also, in order to effectively capture climbing’s unpredictable nature, Vertical eXcape’s 30-foot tall climbing walls and bouldering feature are constantly changing. In any given week, it’s common to see up to 15 potential climbing routes altered on the walls, and between 30-45 potential routes altered on the bouldering feature.

The man behind these intricacies and consistent changes is Evan Karcher, Vertical eXcape’s director of operations.

By way of remodeling the gym’s offered obstacles week in and week out, Karcher aims to ensure that Vertical eXcape keeps its climbers competitive and engaged.

“I reset the walls, and every week there’s new stuff going up,” Karcher said. “You never get bored.”

Constant route-shifting also means greater difficulty and skill-building, as Cable called attention to.

“If you get to the point where you are climbing harder than anything that we have in the gym, we can fix that,” Cable said.

The versatility of pathing indoor routes at Vertical eXcape makes for an extremely realistic climbing experience, which coincides perfectly with its goal to get climbers outside and on real rocks.

“I try to push everyone to get outside, because until you do it you don’t realize quite what it is,” Karcher said. “That’s when you finally create a climber.”

Because Bowling Green is located only a few hours away from the Red River Gorge, a renowned climbing destination, Karcher believes Bowling Green was in need of an indoor climbing facility like Vertical eXcape, which opened just this past February.

“Bowling Green definitely needed it,” Karcher said. “There’s plenty of people climbing, and we’re in such an ideal location.”

Notwithstanding Bowling Green’s access to great climbing spots, climbing serves as a fun and healthy exercise alternative, which initially interested Cable in climbing.

“Gyms were never really my thing. I just didn’t really care for the atmosphere,” Cable said. “When I started rock-climbing, it was just a ton of fun.”

Though an enjoyable activity, Karcher made note of climbing’s profound substance and instructional value.

“It teaches you your team-building. It teaches you your self-confidence. It teaches you how to interact with other people, how to be competitive,” Karcher said.

Karcher emphasized the universality of climbing, citing that anyone interested in climbing can and should try it.

“We can make anyone a climber, no matter how big or small you are, no matter how old you are,” Karcher said. “Anyone can do it.”

In looking to the future, aside from the next Headlamp Climb event, which Cable says will likely take place next spring, Karcher says the gym will host a Halloween-themed potluck dinner for members Oct. 30. Vertical eXcape will also host a top rope and bouldering competition/fundraiser for hurricane victims in Miami and Houston during November.

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]