Students scale the heights at Vertical Ventures

It’s a converted warehouse, the perfect location because of its high ceilings and spacious interior. That space, more than 6,000 square feet of it, is dedicated to Vertical Ventures, Tampa’s only indoor climbing gym. Inside, techno music charges the atmosphere with energy that climbers use to push through challenging climbs. Spiderman could have taken lessons from the climbers hanging from the ceiling.

As daunting as the high ceilings look, even a beginner can climb to the top.

“People think it takes lots of upper body strength to climb, but that’s not true. Climbing’s about 80 percent legwork. It’s like walking up the stairs — you use your legs to do the work and your arms just provide a sort of guiding balance on the banister,” said Tim Jarvis, one of Vertical Ventures’ climbing supervisors.

The climbers and staff are always willing to help by pointing out an unlikely toehold or by sharing a climbing method.

“The staff at Vertical Ventures is quick to offer great advice on how to better your technique,” said Christy Vantleugten, a senior majoring in marketing major at USF.

Vantleugten started climbing because Red Bull, the company she works for, held a team-building event at Vertical Ventures. She enjoyed the experience so much that she “just had to come back.” Since then, Vantleugten has used the climbing gym as stress relief and as a workout, a regime she describes as a “change of scenery from the regular boring gym workout.”

The cost of membership per month is comparable to membership at a gym. For less of a commitment, anyone can visit Vertical Ventures for $11 Tuesday through Friday and $12.50 Saturday and Sunday. Students get 15 percent off every day. Expect to pay $30 on the first visit for safety class.

Ladies will find that the best day to go is Wednesday, when a 50 percent off ladies’ night special is offered. Women, according to Jarvis, are generally better climbers “because their flexibility and leg strength counts for more than sheer muscle power. Male beginners make the mistake of trying to power through using their upper body.”

Parties and social events are often held at Vertical Ventures. Last Wednesday, Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting fraternity at USF, held its third annual social, sponsored by the Grant Thornton accounting and consulting firm.

Matt Dumar of Grant Thornton said the event has proven to be “a great way for accounting students to mingle with professionals.”


The most commonly recognized type of climbing is belaying, which involves a two-person team made of a climber and a belayer. The belayer holds the rope connected to the climber, ensuring that the climber does not fall. Belay is a French term that means manning the ropes. For $30 anyone can be instructed in belay. Climbers learn to use verbal signals, safety techniques and learn to repel.


Bouldering is low climbing to about 12 feet high and enables beginners to learn climbing techniques without having to bother with equipment. Even without belay training, a beginning climber can start bouldering. At Vertical Ventures, an orange line denotes the maximum height of bouldering. Most of the climbing is done sideways instead of vertically. The more advanced boulder climbers take a challenge by following specific routes on the walls. Routes are marked by different colored tape.


Caving, a form of bouldering, has its own section at Vertical Ventures. The caving area, with its low-angled ceilings and walls, presents lots of challenges for any climber. As Jarvis pointed out, “since it’s so low, you can hop right on and develop strength and techniques for outdoor climbs.”


Strapping into the climbing harness is actually pretty simple. The harness is used for belaying and costs $3 to rent. To keep sweaty palms from slipping, some climbers clip a chalk bag to the harness, which rents at $1.50. Climbers wear flexible, tight fitting shoes. According to Jarvis, the special climbing shoes help your toes curl under to grip the rock. The shoes rent for $4. Depending on the climber’s preference and the type of climbing they’re engaging in, equipment rental might be necessary. Those who belay must have the harness, but the climbing shoes and chalk are optional, though highly recommended.