Will Climbing Dethrone Crossfit?

Thanks to the popularity of shows like NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior”—this year won by climber Isaac Caldiero—rock climbing has been enjoying a sudden push into the spotlight. But while most people will never shimmy up a 75-foot rope in 30 seconds—as Caldiero did to win the ANW title, the addition of climbing walls to gyms, cruise ships and college campuses makes it possible to at least give the sport a try. That means off-season rock climbers are no longer the only ones on the gym wall.

Now, they’re joined by what Scarpa climbing category manager Mark Busby refers to as the “CrossFit climber,” or, the urban athlete who started the year off spinning, switched over to CrossFit for beach season, then headed to the wall when bored with the “box.”

“Maybe they have the perception that climbing outdoors is cold, the rock is sharp and hey—there might be bears out there—but they still want to give climbing a try,” Busby says. “For that kind of athlete, the gym is perfect: challenging, a great workout, very social.”

I think those of us who are regular gym goers have known that climbing gyms have been growing for a while. It’s an interesting comparison that the author makes with climbing apparently “dethroning” Crossfit. I’ve made the switch in the other direction recently.[1]

Perhaps it is because at this point in my life my weekends are filled with kids and family so I can’t go climbing as much, thus the weekday gym warrior works for me right now.

But here’s where the data gets interesting: Yes, the climbing population is growing at a rapid-fire pace, with most new climbers starting in the gym. But according to research conducted recently by Black Diamond, a large portion of these gym climbers will never make the transition to outdoors.

I think this is actually a point that shows that Crossfit will stick around with climbing. If these new “crossfit climbers” never really make the transition to climbing out doors then I don’t believe a climbing gym will cut it for them completely…at least not for the long run. I think climbing gyms or crossfit gyms would be smart to team up…everyone wants to be in great shape and show off by climbing something cool. It’s fun to see climbing grow though. Where do you think it will be in 10 years?

The Sport That Will Dethrone CrossFit | Outdoor Industry Association


  1. partly because my local gym just shut down and my crossfit gym just doubled in size  ↩