Amusement park meets climbing gym
By Johanna Chan
You face the transparent climbing wall, and on the opposite side, your friend does the same. You give each other a quick nod, and begin the ascension. You reach up for the purple hold, then the green, and then another purple. Your partner has to mirror your every move. With a final push, you both reach the top and with a smile, push the red button together, signalling a successful team climb.
While most indoor climbing facilities in Hong Kong offer typical climbing walls, Verm City in Quarry Bay also has a Clip N’ Climb area with 19 themed sections for beginners. Besides the 6.3-metre transparent wall, there is also is a rainbow-coloured climbing spiral, a speed challenge wall, and a vertical drop slide.
With sports climbing becoming an official Olympic sport in 2020, Cary Lee, 45, the director of Verm City, saw the need to nurture a young generation of rock climbers. He says it is difficult to find new climbing talent because children lack exposure to the sport. He set up the Clip N’ Climb, where people clip their harness in to an automatic belaying system, as a less intimidating way to introduce rock climbing to Hong Kong. Through the Clip N’ Climb, Lee and other instructors are able to spot potentially talented individuals who may be interested in taking it a step further and training more professionally.
Lee says he enjoys seeing families and friends come together and bond over climbing. He says many enter the gym with their faces glued to their smartphones, but once they start the challenges, the phones are forgotten and everyone is participating – giving tips and encouragement to help each other complete the climb. Friends challenge and encourage each other while parents physically help their children get up.
Lee compares climbing to life, saying that in different stages of life you get different amounts of help. At the beginning of a route, a climber could get a lot of physical support, but once they get higher up, they must rely on themselves.
“Climbing is about problem solving. Every route you see represents a riddle,” he says. He believes that there are no barriers to climbing. Throughout his career, Lee has seen children as young as two years old and adults as old as 80, as well as physically and mentally disabled people climb up the walls.
Lee’s eyes gleam when he recalls new climbers pushing themselves to reach the top for the very first time. He says he feels a rush of joy whenever he sees their self-confidence build up through climbin g.
The veteran climber believes the biggest obstacle for newcomers is the psychological fear of taking the next step. He says much of climbing is about mentally challenging and believing in oneself. “Only those unafraid to die are unafraid of heights,” says Lee.
Verm City is located at 4/F, 321 Java Road, Quarry Bay. For more details, call 2560-8128 or visit https://www.vermcity.com/.
Edited by Yi Yeung