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I have discovered THE place with the best looking bodies. Not Genève Plage; nor the Bain de Pâquis; not at your local gym, either. Have I got your attention? Check out the local climbing walls. I kid you not. I was at Vitam’Parc’s climbing center one rainy day with my teenage kids and I was in awe.

Climbing you say? Isn’t that dangerous? It doesn’t have to be if you begin the right way.

INDOOR WALL CLIMBING, OR MUR DE GRIMPE

Start with indoor climbing. Being indoors provides a safer, controlled environment where sharp rocks, weather and other elements of nature are not an issue.  It mimics the outdoor experience with resin hand and footholds that provide varying degrees of difficulty. Each “top rope” (where you secure the rope above) has several color coded paths that represent different difficulties.

Climbing at Vertic Halle in Valais.

Climbing at Vertic Halle in Valais.

Indoor equipment is also very basic. It is best to have your own climbing shoes, harness and belay device but most centers rent these items and provide the ropes. In any case you must take a few lessons in order to learn how to use all the equipment. Vitam’ Parc says they begin climbing lessons for children at the age of 4 years. This would have been great for my children since they were always climbing things unsecured!

Instead my kids started indoor climbing when the youngest was ten years-old. They climb once a week at Antecimes in a large converted barn in Collonge-Bellerive. Their teacher, also a mountain guide, teaches them safety, the relevant knots and techniques. After that they are free to experiment and have fun.

Bouldering with thick mats below.

In class bouldering with thick mats below.

Climbing has been a perfect sport for my son. It demands intense concentration, trust, creativity, coordination, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility. I recently asked my daughter, who looks like a ballerina on the wall, why she enjoys climbing. Her answer was simple: “I love the feeling of being up high.”

Climbing the ceiling during class.

Climbing the ceiling during class.

OUTDOOR ROCK CLIMBING, OR ESCALADE

Outdoor rock climbing notches up the intensity of the sport. One’s chances of falling are greater -but remember you are secured on a rope. My son loves this adrenalin rush while my daughter is worried she will tear up her skin. Psychologically, you feel higher up and now you must search out the path rather than have the hand and footholds given to you. The equipment requirements become more extensive and expensive, too. You need shoes, harness, helmet, rope, belay device, quick draws and carabiners.

A rare climb in Haute-Savoie at the end of November.

A rare climb in Haute-Savoie at the end of November.

In order to learn the safety rules and etiquette of outdoor climbing , my son took several summer classes and then taught us. Outdoor climbing opened up a new world of sporty people. We arrived at Les Gaillands near Chamonix and there were whole families spending the day climbing; Grandmas securing their grandchildren, teenagers securing their parents and university-age kids just waking up to begin their day of climbing.

Balancing at Ouray, Colorado

Balancing at Ouray, Colorado

Nowadays we travel with our gear. We have discovered beautiful secluded areas and more popular, easy-to-reach areas. While climbing in Ouray, Colorado last summer we met a couple from Boulder who had worked in France and a French family who had brought their gear to climb in the US.

Climbing Dry Creek, Colorado

Climbing Dry Creek, Colorado

BACK TO THE BODIES

So I am curious which comes first: the sport or the body. I haven’t delved into the actual climbing, yet. But if I can look like the people I saw climbing that rainy day I am ready go all in.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES THAT I USE

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/

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