5 Seconds with Alex Honnold

Your guide to the United States of climbing. Plus, tips to stay injury-free and some inspiring words from the world’s best big-waller.

Creed and climbing gyms make Honnold nostalgic. (Sebastian Kim/August)

Alex Honnold Has a Soft Spot for Pulling on Plastic

“I started climbing at 11, when my parents brought me to Granite Arch, near our home in Sacramento. I’d never heard of rock climbing before. My dad would take me there—we’d bring our lunches and make an adventure out of it. I wore headphones with a Walkman on the wall, listening to Megadeth and Creed. When I climb indoors these days, I get the most out of the ratty old gyms. The resin holds from the mid-nineties, mini finger buckets, Nicros, Metolius. It takes you back. I hear Creed at the gym now and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m 14 again.’ Climbing in a gym isn’t as adventurous as climbing a mountain, but you have to take it for what it is—and it is awesome. Climbing a good route is climbing a good route, whether on plastic or rock. Just do what you find inspiring.”

New Heights

Last year was a good one for climbing gyms, with 27 opening across the U.S. (A projected 18 more are ­expected in 2017.) “We’ve moved out of the Wild West of early-2000s gym development and into a wider world of possibilities,” says Mike Helt, editor in chief of Climbing ­Business Journal. Wher­ever you happen to live, chances are an indoor wall isn’t far.

Pacific Coast

2000: 20 gyms
2016: 89

Rocky Mountains

2000: 15 gyms
2016: 70

Midwest

2000: 27 gyms
2016: 61

South

2000: 32 gyms
2016: 95

Northeast

2000: 29 gyms
2016: 84

State with the Most Gyms

Surprise! California with 61.

City with the Most Gyms

Actual surprise: NYC with six.

The Country’s Largest Gym

Vertical Endeavors in Glendale Heights, Illinois, has a whopping 45,000 square feet of space.

The Country’s Smallest Gym

Climbing High in Waynesville, Ohio, covers about 550 square feet and has a maximum wall height of 12 feet.

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