There’s a good chance that is not the first word that pops into your head when you think about auto belays. One argument that we hear from gym owners against using auto belays is that they are counter-productive to building a tight-knit climbing community. But that’s not the way that pro climber and gym owner Chris Sharma sees it.
“Climbing with auto belays, you can actually climb together with your friends or your family,” said Sharma, who has set aside an entire mezzanine in his new Sharma Climbing BCN-Gava facility exclusively for auto belays.
“It’s an incredible tool for a climber and, of course, it’s an incredible tool as a gym owner to have this whole zone of auto belays. It really facilitates so many different things for our clients.”
Favorite Uses for Auto Belays
Speaking as a father, one of Sharma’s favorite things about climbing on auto belay is the ability to climb side-by-side with his daughter.
“I’ll climb one route and she’s right next to me climbing another route,” said Sharma, with a huge grin spreading across his face. “I can actually be right next to her. It’s really cool, that really opens up new possibilities for new interactions. And I would have to say, actually, our auto belay zone is one of the most active and social areas of our gym. It’s really amazing. I’m just happy to see how this mezzanine has given so much life into our gym.”
Other than enjoying the chance to climb with his daughter, Sharma also noted the convenience of his auto belay area when hosting group events and birthday parties. The low barrier to entry for new climbers is one of the most frequently cited reasons that we hear from gym owners for installing auto belays in their climbing gyms.
“I would have to say, actually, our auto belay zone is one of the most active and social areas of our gym.” -- Chris Sharma
But that’s only part of the story.
Creating a Safe Place to Climb
Even for owners who are pro auto belay, it’s relatively common to think of this benefit only in terms of individual climbers, rather than taking a step back and considering the enormous social impact they can provide by making gyms available to larger group events.
For many attendees, this may be their first real introduction to climbing. Having a chance to try out the sport without worrying about safety or belay technique allows beginners to focus all their attention on their climbing, their friends, and having a good time.