Former Canadian rock climbing champion Jody Miall hates when people describe his sport as extreme.
“I just don’t think of rock climbing as an extreme sport,” said Miall, an 18-year climbing veteran. “Climbing is all about making calculated decisions, careful decisions, especially outdoors.
“It’s not like it is in the movies. Movies like Cliffhanger and Vertical Limit grossly exaggerate the potential dangers. In reality, if there were a blockbuster movie about climbing, it would be boring. You’re never going to leap 40 feet across a crevasse or jump to save your partner.”
Despite the lack of chills and thrills, rock climbing is rapidly growing in popularity, said Miall, the manager of Ottawa’s Coyote Rock Gym. And it’s not just Type A personalities that enjoy the view from the top.
“You get computer programmers hanging out with landscapers cheering on doctors,” said Miall.
Climbers range from 10 years old to people in their 60s — “that happens all the time,” he said — but although the sport attracts a variety of people, there has been a slight shift in the demographic.
Fifteen years ago, rock climbing was a male-dominated sport, but now, it’s an even male-female split.
“Often nights the women outnumber the men,” Miall said — more proof to the contrary that climbing requires only great upper body strength.
Flexibility, core strength and patience are more of what matters.
The 30-year-old is testament to that fact. The guy’s not heavily muscled, but climbs overhangs with more dexterity than Spider-Man.
It’s not just a low-impact, full-body workout, he said.
“You need to assess your next move, what the next two moves are, if you’re going to get a rest,” he said.
“I call it a moving meditation,” said climber Matthew Moher, 24. “While you’re climbing, your mind is completely clear and focused. It’s all about problem solving.”
For Philippe Lemire, it’s about fun.
“It’s a great exercise, but you feel like a kid when you do it,” he said.
Metro Ottawa’s Tracey Tong is an award-winning reporter. A Burlington native, Tong’s career has taken her all over Ontario. Her Cityscapes column appears every Wednesday.