Last Updated on January 9, 2019 by Jeremy
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When we heard that Pittsburgh was getting a rock climbing gym within the city limits, I was pretty excited. (Angie, not so much.)
I had tried this activity out a few times when I was in college, but in being a college student couldn't quite afford to go as much as I would like.
I knew that once Ascend opened at their location in the South Side I would have to go and see if I still enjoy it as much as I remember, and of course had to drag Angie along with me for her first rock climbing experience as well.
As it turns out, I like rock climbing now even more than I remember, and even Angie was on board with it after we got there!
Ascend Pittsburgh is Primarily a Bouldering Gym
Before jumping into our review, we have to highlight one important fact and that is Ascend is primarily a bouldering gym- something we did not know prior to visiting.
This means that the vast majority of the walls here are without belay (harness) systems and it is just you and the walls which range in height from about 10 to 20 feet.
The gym does have one wall with eight auto belay devices (as well as an equal number of regular belay lines, which require certification to use), and visitors who do not want to boulder can find a lot of enjoyment in these.
They are fairly idiot proof and require roughly five minutes of training, but I still somehow managed to let go of the cable once when unbuckling and had to get a staff member to retrieve it (yes, I broke one of the literally only two rules of auto belay- but I swear it was an accident.).
But those who want to get the most out of Ascend should be prepared to boulder, and that is exactly what we did.
During our visit to Ascend we primarily stuck to the bouldering rock that is about 10 feet tall and located towards one end of the gym. This one has a flat top that is sealed which allows climbers to make their way to the top completely before climbing down a safety ladder on one side.
We found the lowest rated climb possible, and somehow made our way to the top on the first try with almost no effort at all- talk about a confidence boost!
In fact, the variety is one of the things we loved about climbing at Ascend because the paths are switched up periodically and each wall has routes for all skill levels.
We ended up making it to the second level set of climbs before our hands started to give out, but we were tackling scenarios we never dreamed we would attempt (especially on a first visit). That is truly saying something towards how the gym is setup for climbers of all skill levels!
A Lot of Great Side Perks at Ascend
Going beyond the climbing walls at Ascend the gym has a number of other perks including a well stocked gym area, fitness and yoga classes (one included with each day pass), a lounge / office space, and more.
It is easily one of those places you could spend all day if you had the stamina to do so.
While we only lasted about two hours and ended up too tired to even try out the yoga class we eyeing, it does highlight how great of deal a visit to Ascend truly is.
Ascend Pittsburgh is a Surprisingly Good Deal
It is all well and good to talk about rock climbing at Ascend, which we could keep going on about if we had to be honest, but now we have to take a brief tangent and answer an important question: what about the cost?
During Ascend's first year of operation a day pass for adults runs $16 and gives you unlimited climbing, access to fitness equipment, and one yoga or fitness class.
If you need to rent gear, shoes and a chalk bag run $5 and are free for first time visitors. As this gym is primarily bouldering oriented you can get by easily with this, but if you would like to use the belay lines the harness rental is an additional $3. (Training on the auto belay line is free and takes about five minutes, while regular belaying requires a special class only available on select days).
So if you want to do it all at Ascend, you'll be looking at $24 for a day- a great price compared to other gyms we've been to in the past!
In addition, Ascend offers discounts to a number of organizations, public servants, seniors, and college students, and has a ten punch pass that is essentially one visit free.
All good things to consider if you love to rock climb.
Overall, the rock climbing at Ascend Pittsburgh surprised us in a number of ways, but most notably was that we ended up tackling several climbs on the bouldering walls shortly after arrival (successfully, mind you). Given our skill level, or lack-thereof, this gave us a newfound confidence that we'll bring with us on a return visit very, very soon.
Ascend Pittsburgh is located at 2141 Mary Street in South Side.