When Michael Lary’s dog Coava went missing, the outpouring on social media was heavy enough to make a human feel jealous.
Lary had recently moved houses, and ended up finding Coava at his old place after a day or two of searching.
“The response through social media was absurd. I don’t think that many people would be concerned if I went missing,” Lary joked.
The reason Coava’s disappearance resonated so fully is because the dog, likely a McNab breed per Lary, has become a sort-of mascot for the Source Climbing Center on Main Street in Vancouver, which Lary co-owns with Guruhans Kroesen. The concern over Coava was a symbol for the community the Source has developed since opening in 2011.
“We really get to know people who come to the gym,” Lary said of the Source, which is the only commercial business dedicated to rock climbing in Vancouver.
That’s at the center of Lary’s sell to potential rock climbers, who might be interested in picking up the sport during the cold, dark, rainy months. In some ways, rock climbing can be more intimidating than many hobbies. If you’re self-conscious of climbing at a gym in front of other experienced climbers, Lary understands that fear.
He was once in the same spot, when he picked up rock climbing as a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1996. He said a main point of having a rock-climbing gym is to introduce people to the sport and offer them a judgment-free space to learn.
“The reason people work here is because they love sharing their passion for the sport with others,” Lary said. “When you come in here, you’re going to have a good experience. Even if it’s your first day and you’re struggling, you’re going to accomplish something, even if it’s just getting on the wall and climbing up 10 feet. That’s an accomplishment, and we really celebrate that as much as we celebrate the person who is climbing the hardest wall in here.”
As an exercise, rock climbing has few peers when it comes to activating and training a variety of muscles in one session, Lary said. It’s great for your core, back, forearms, legs, hand grip and more. Rock climbing is also easier on the joints than many running sports or weight training. And it offers much better cardiovascular exercise than you might think, according to a 2018 Time Magazine article.
Unlike exercises heavy on repetitive motions, each rock-climbing route is different with various holds, surfaces and tasks that you have to perform. Since it’s a dynamic workout that shifts frequently, it’s very challenging and fatiguing.
Lary said the challenges carry over from physical to mental, which can be tough for new climbers to grasp. When you’re on a wall 20 to 40 feet off the ground, it can get quite scary, particularly if it’s something you’re not used to.
“You get really anxious and scared,” Lary said. “So you have to process through that anxiety and fear. If you can slow yourself down in that moment, where it’s not just a race to get to the top, you’ll be OK.”
For beginners, Lary explained it’s important to be smart and safe. He said starting with classes is a good idea, because it will make the experience safer and more fun. Lary always tells climbers to remember to use their feet. “You’re stepping up the wall. You’re not doing pull-ups up the wall,” he said.
Also, as Lary likes to joke to new climbers: “The thing I’m best at in climbing is falling.” Falling, and failing, are two aspects of climbing that are inevitable. But reaching a reward — getting to the top, conquering a new route — are also inevitable if you stick with it, Lary said. If you start now, maybe you’ll be ready to climb outside by the time the sun returns.
“It’s just continual learning,” Lary said. “No matter how good you get there’s always a next step.”