Rancho Cordova, California
THE WALL: A whopping 17,000 square feet of hand-carved terrain with 240 routes, most of them around 5.9. Although the wall tops out in an overhanging arch 36 feet off the floor, the most torturous routes wind up 90 feet.
THE BETA: Sections of the gym mimic the features of Yosemite's cracks, Mexico's rough pockets, and New York's 'Gunk horizontals. Practice placing cams, nuts, and stoppers.
THE CRUX: $12 a day; $46 a month with a $40 initiation fee.
THE WALL: Get above the corn with 60 routes on 10,000 square feet. With holds up to 35 feet off the deck, Iowa residents may want to consider bottled oxygen.
THE BETA: Throw a set of ice tools into the gym's 35-foot, overhanging faux-ice pillar, made of a low-density polymer textured to look like a frozen waterfall. Pumpy WI 4 rating. (Coming soon: indoor mixed climbing.)
THE CRUX: $10 a day; $60 a month. Ice wall $5 extra per day.
San Francisco, California
THE WALL: Home to international competitions, this recycled warehouse features more than 100 routes up to 55 feet on 14,000 square feet. Industrial-size problem: Stem off a crane left behind by the previous tenant.
THE BETA: Tired of the routes here? Fifteen minutes away is the Berkeley Iron Works, with more than 100 routes and 14,000 square feet of climbing. The Works shares membership with Mission Cliffs.
THE CRUX: $100 initiation fee, $60 a month; $16 a day after 3 p.m., $8 a day before 3 p.m.
Lincoln Park Athletic Club
THE WALL: A 70-by-70-foot playground of roofs, bulges, and imprinted holds on the exterior of an athletic complex. Snag a heel hook and wave to commuters as they pass at eye level on the El's Red Line.
THE BETA: Ownership hopes to place heating tubes in the wall for warm(er) outdoor winter climbing. Until then, go inside and warm up on "The Rock," a vertical or overhanging (you decide) treadmill with holds for climbing in place, hamster-style.
THE CRUX: $14 a day; $90 a month for entire complex.
THE WALL: Nine hundred panels of hand-sculpted concrete add up to 14,000 square feet. A hundred and fifty routes up to 35 feet high.
THE BETA: Place gear and learn aid-climbing techniques in the gym that Greg Child helped build in 1987—the first indoor climbing gym in the nation.
THE CRUX: $11 weekdays, $16 weekends; $40 monthly.