Rock climbing in Federal Way

The rock climbing wall at the Federal Way Community Center is available for all ages and fitness levels. - Courtesy photo
The rock climbing wall at the Federal Way Community Center is available for all ages and fitness levels.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Weekend warriors of Federal Way don't have to look far for adventure. The Federal Way Community Center offers members a variety of activities including dance exercise classes, a gymnasium, a swimming pool and a rock climbing wall.

The community center opened in March 2007. The rock climbing wall was included by community request, said Kimberly Shelton, fitness and athletic coordinator.

"Community surveys were taken and we found that this was something people really wanted," Shelton said.

Rock climbing is a popular yet physically demanding sport for all ages and fitness levels, according to

Traditionally, climbers scale large rock formations with the help of ropes and pulleys. The sport has evolved to include different climbing equipment, styles and techniques. Indoor climbing allows for easy access, convenient hours and great exercise. With the use of artificial rock walls, facilities have popped up all over the place, including Federal Way.

These artificial walls are made of steel support beams, plywood and concrete. The footholds are made of polyurethane and resin, according to Edgeworks Climbing facility manager Kirsten Lawson. Manufacturers do extensive safety and weight limit testing. In fact, many will hang entire cars from the top anchors.

The Federal Way Community Center offers a 27-foot freestanding wall. The "pinnacle" is available to all members weighing at least 30 pounds. Shelton said there are anywhere between 5-20 climbers a day, most of them children.

"I would say about 75 percent of climbers are children," Shelton said.

The climbing done on this type of wall is "top-roping" — a secure climb with rope looped through an attached anchor at the top. Bouldering, a low-height climb that only requires shoes, is another option but not ideal with this type of wall.

Though most climbers agree there is no substitute for the great outdoors, the community center's pinnacle is an option when weekend traveling isn't possible. Beginners should practice at an indoor facility. Climbing gyms offer safety classes and have staff on hand to assist and answer questions.

The community center offers rock climbing seven days a week, open evenings and weekends. During the busy summer months, two morning classes are offered. However, that will change when school starts again.

"The climbing hours are enough right now, but if we saw more interest, we could expand our hours," Shelton said.

Climbing is included in a long-term or day pass at the community center. There is a $3 charge for equipment rental that includes a harness, shoes and chalk (used to keep hands dry).

Climbing classes are available for children between ages 3 to 10. All climbers are required to sign a liability waiver, and climbers under age 18 must have parental consent.

This fall, the community center will team up with Edgeworks Climbing, located in Tacoma, to offer adult climbing classes. The Adventure Series includes six weeks of instruction by Edgeworks instructors at the Federal Way location. Weeks seven and eight will be taken outdoors to the Sprinker Facility in Spanaway Park.

The rock climbing schedule is available online at For information about these and other activities, call (253) 835-6900.

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