You’re extremely psyched up for this weekend’s outdoor rock climbing trip. You meticulously scheduled your weekend, ate a huge breakfast, stretched your muscles, pumped up on weights, and mentally reviewed your project so you can spend the day making all kinds of ascents. You’ve contacted the guides, and they’ve given you the go ahead to meet them at the crag.
Alas, luck is not on your side! Suddenly, the skies opened up and poured bucket upon endless buckets of water. Or the guides sent you a text that something came up, and they won’t be able to meet you. Or your folks reminded you that you have chores to do for the day. Or you noticed your almost-flat wallet. It seems that your supposedly splendid climbing day went down the drain.
Worry not, fellow climber! There is still a way to have an awesome climbing session without exposing yourself to harsh weather. You can still climb without having to blow a hole in your pocket. You can climb any time of the day, even at night!
You only need to head to Vertigo Climbing Center, located at the 2nd floor of Metrosports in Salinas Drive, Lahug. If Cantabaco is Cebu’s (and perhaps the Philippine’s) premier rock climbing site, then Vertigo Climbing Center is Cebu’s premier wall climbing destination. Yes, there’s a bigger climbing wall up in the Crown Regency Hotel, but it would cost you P600 to climb there!
Sweetie and I went to Vertigo last Sunday. We felt really lazy (yes, we’re normal humans too, and we do feel lethargic at times) in going to the limestone cliffs of Cantabaco, yet, we have this unrelenting urge to climb. We woke up at 10 AM, did our chores, ate breakfast, smooched, cuddled, hugged, etc. until after lunch. We arrived at Metrosports around 3 PM.
You need to pay an affordable P130 at the counter before you can proceed to Vertigo. Don’t worry because P130 permits you to climb all you can.
Metrosports has a couple of stalls to provide refreshments for hungry and thirsty sports enthusiasts. Here’s a ubiquitous Thirsty! outlet that serves fresh, 100-percent, all-natural fruit juices, shakes, and smoothies.
Walk up to the second floor where you can find the Vertigo Climbing Wall. The climbing wall is subdivided into 6 different walls of varying difficulty. The wall nearest to Vertigo’s entrance is the easiest while the one farthest to the entrance is the hardest.
Approach the counter at the end of the climbing area, and give your receipt to Plong Plong (the guy pictured here) or Pipang. They are the friendly guardians, guides, and coaches of Vertigo, and they’ll definitely be happy to assist you.
Don’t worry if you don’t have climbing shoes, a harness, or a chalk bag. The staff at Vertigo will provide them for you although you may have to pay extra for the rental of climbing shoes.
Carefully read the safety rules before you climb, especially if this is your first time. As prominently displayed on the banner, you are responsible for your safety and the safety of your climbing partner. Take all these rules to heart. The Vertigo staff has the right to eject you from the facility if you do something stupid or unsafe.
Warm up on these training holds. Put your fingers inside the slots, grip the hold, and try to pull yourself up.
For safety, all routes are set up with a top-rope anchor system. Auto-locking Petzl Gri-gri belay devices are used on all routes. Think of the Gri-gri as a car’s seatbelt; if you suddenly lurch forward, the mechanism prevents you from flying off your seat. That’s the same principle with the Gri-gri; if you fall from a climbing route, the Gri-gri automatically locks to prevent you from plunging to the ground.
Note that the ropes used for the permanent, top-rope lines are static ropes, not the dynamic ropes used in rock climbing. Thus, expect the rope to be stiff and painful to handle if you’re the belayer.
For added safety, the ground is covered with crash pads (sometimes called bouldering mats) and thick foam pads.
After chalking up and stretching, Sweetie prepares to warm up by traversing the first three walls.
This is called bouldering, a climbing style in which no ropes are used. Here, power, strength, and dynamics are focused rather than endurance. Risk of injury is minimized by limiting the height of the climb; typically, in bouldering, climbers seldom ascend to more than 3 to 5 meters. If a climber does fall, the crash pad below cushions his or her fall. For further protection, one or several spotters follow the climber as he works on a problem (the term used for a bouldering route). The spotter directs the climber’s body towards the crash pad if the latter falls.
Vertigo does not have a route that is strictly made for bouldering, which is quite disappointing. We hope that in the future, the facility will have a bouldering area.
For my warm-up climb, I chose the second hardest route, Wall 5, because it offers sufficient challenge, with 90 percent of the wall positioned in an overhang. I’ve done this route on top rope several times, so this time, I decided to lead climb it.
Starting the climb. See that red line? You should not go past that line when bouldering; that’s the safe fall limit. Going past that line requires the proper climbing gear for safety.
Now, this lead was really scary because the first hanger to clip the first quickdraw is actually above the red line! There was supposed to be a hanger below the red line, but somehow, it got ripped out years ago. There was another hanger at the right side wall, but it’s still above the red line.
Z-clip! Oh, no! Z-clipping happens when the climber clips the rope on the next piece of protection below the last piece of protection rather than above it. This mistake usually happens on hangers that are in close proximity to each other such as in this situation. Thus, rather than acquiring a higher point of protection, the climber, in reality, bypasses the highest protection.
In this case, if I fall, I’ll fall really, really far!
I fixed the Z-clip while hanging precariously on a hold. Oh yes, I’ll tell you: fixing a mistake while up there is scary, frustrating, and exhausting!
Almost at the top and clipping the rope to the highest piece of protection. See the straight vertical section? That’s the only vertical place in Wall 5.
Clipped and ready to move on for the final lurch.
I reached the top, but there was actually no chain or ring to clip my anchor draws. In the end, I simply clipped two draws on either side of the chain that held the top-rope pulley.
Here’s a second fellow leading Wall 5. He didn’t need to place the draws because I already placed them there. Plong Plong belayed him. Your belayer is crucial to your safety.
After several climbs, I decided to try Wall 6, the most challenging wall Vertigo has to offer. Why? Well, the route isn’t just an overhang. It actually consists of two 180-degree roofs! In other words, negotiating these roofs need strength, technique, and stamina while climbing in a supine position!
Negotiating the first roof. I discovered that with proper footing, I can hang on with relatively less upper body strength.
Pulling up to position myself in tackling the second roof. At this point, I was quaking in adrenaline. This is the first time I’ve ever climbed a roof. The skills and the techniques I’ll gain here will be useful when climbing the Blackfoot or Canta Ba Ako routes in Cantabaco; both involve negotiating a roof.
Successfully went over the second roof. Going through the last roof involves campusing, a climbing move that involves only the hands and arms. After securing my hold on a higher grip, I was able to bring my feet up for balance.
Surprisingly, the roofs were not the cruxes (the most difficult parts) of the climb. Personally, the crux of Wall 5 was actually at the last vertical section. The holds were mostly awkward slopers, crimpers, and pinches. I wasn’t able to find any jugs or pockets—or I may have missed them entirely.
A few more top rope practices, then I’ll lead climb this route. Next time!
Sweetie practiced her technique on Wall 4 which involves a slight slant, followed by a 45-degree overhang then an easy 90 degree section.
Sweetie skillfully ascended the 45-degree overhang using techniques that involved less use of strength. Go, go, go, Sweetie! By the way, during this climb, she had a terrible cough.
Umph! Umph! Just a little more!
From here on, it was an easy ascent. The key to this route is not to waste too much of your time on the incline. This can be done with proper foot placement, body twists, and a little bit of exertion.
Sweetie reached the top of the route despite not feeling well for most of the day.
The best part in all of this? You can make friends with these awesome, warm, and friendly climbers. True, climbing is an individual sport. But the sport becomes more fun, enjoyable, and inspiring if you’re surrounded with supportive, friendly fellow climbers!
Rock on! Climb on! Visit Vertigo Climbing Center now!
1. Vertigo Climbing Center is at the second floor of Metrosports Center in Salinas Drive, Lahug. It is situated across Asiatown IT Park. You can call them at (032) 231-5651, (032) 234-4921, or (032) 233-3338. Or you can check out their website.
2. Vertigo Climbing Center is open from 7 days a week. Although Metrosports opens at 6 AM, Vertigo Climbing Center gets manned much later. Here’s their operating schedule
- Monday to Saturday: 10 AM to 9 PM
- Sunday: 12 NN to 7 PM
3. Pay P130 at the front desk to climb the walls of Vertigo. The fee includes unlimited hours of climbing and harness and chalk bag rental. You need to pay extra for the climbing shoes); we forgot the rate, but it was about P60 to P80 per session. While they have a lot of harnesses, they are severely lacking in shoes. These are some of the reasons why you should have your own rock climbing shoes.
Note that prices may change without prior notice.
4. Approach Plong Plong, Pipang, and any of the staff in Vertigo. All of them are friendly and professional coaches, and you’re in good hands with them.
5. It is advisable to call Metrosports to check if Vertigo is vacant on the day you intend to climb. At times, the entire wall is booked for a certain amount of time for school PE subjects, corporate events, and team building events. You don’t want to go to Vertigo only to know you can’t climb because the wall is reserved for the entire day.
6. If you wish to climb with fewer people, schedule your climb in the morning or early afternoon. The regular climbers mostly come and train late afternoon or in the evening.
7. If you want to learn the sport of rock climbing, then we highly recommend climbing the walls of Vertigo. Here, you will learn the basic principles, techniques, and other aspects of rock climbing. Even professional and hardcore climbers regularly climb here to hone their skills and improve their strength and endurance. Training inside an indoor climbing facility relatively safer than in the outdoors considering that you’re in a controlled environment. And, of course, every modern convenience that you need is very accessible.
8. If you need refreshments, you can go down and buy some meals or drinks at the stalls. Alternatively, you can exit Metrosports to find a huge array of eateries and food establishments outside.
9. Always follow your coach’s instructions to maximize your safety and enjoyment.
Constructive Insights on Vertigo:
* Vertigo is Cebu’s premier indoor wall climbing venue, but the climbing routes are severely limited. With the increasing popularity of the sport of climbing in the Philippines, it is time to add more routes. At present, there are only 6 routes. In our collective opinion, it should have 15 to 20 routes of varying difficulties.
* Only Walls 5 and 6 have hangers to clip quickdraws to. That means, they are the only walls that can be lead climbed. We suggest putting hangers on ALL routes (yes, even the easy ones), so climbers can have the option to lead climb whatever route they choose.
* It would be excellent if Vertigo adds up an area specifically made for bouldering. Such area can be divided into problems of various difficulties.
* The wall is quite old, and sadly, it shows. Many of the holds and hangers are loose, swiveling around their securing bolt whenever pressure is applied on them. There are also holes in many parts of the wall. It’s high time that Vertigo does a major renovation and not just a maintenance check.
* We had a friend who wanted to try wall climbing at Vertigo but wasn’t able to do so. Why? Well, she couldn’t tell who are in charge. We suggest Vertigo staff to wear uniforms (T-shirts with the Vertigo logo and the words “Climbing Instructor” or “Climbing Coach” will do) for easier identification.
* Vertigo should buy more rock climbing shoes of different sizes and chalk bags for rent. If we recall, there were just a couple of pairs of shoes in their inventory.