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Fitness craze has many enthusiasts climbing the (rock) wall in the 209

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Fitness craze has many enthusiasts climbing the (rock) wall in the 209

Even when the weather turns bad, climbers can still get in a workout, like visiting this indoor climbing gym, Stonehenge, in Modesto.

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POSTED December 19, 2012 5:38 p.m.

If you weren’t certain it was 1989, you needed only to glance at the big hair protruding awkwardly from the helmets of Ice, Lace and Siren as the hulking ladies shimmied across footholds to capture brave contestants in what American Gladiators dubbed “The Wall.”

It was the first mainstream appearance of artificial climbing walls, now considered a common and exciting form of exercise since Don Robinson of United Kingdom designed the first one in 1964.

Gladiators made it popular by making it a game. Contestants would dart up tiny points of leverage in an attempt to reach the top while spandex-clad Gladiators would race up after them.

The Gladiators are gone, but ‘The Wall’ remains. The portable versions of it are alive in countless festivals, military events and school exercises across the state, but that’s just the walls on wheels. boasts 76 gyms and businesses that feature artificial rock climbing walls.

For local indoor climbing enthusiasts, the best venues for artificial climbs reside in Modesto and Sonora.

Modesto has the benefit of hosting the Stonehenge Climbing Gym, now in its 19th year. The spacious facility features over 4,000 square feet of walls with 40-foot climbs, 50-foot cascading leadable walls and a fun bouldering area with a cave.

The business also operates a mobile climbing wall to attend local events and showcases a fully stocked climbing shop with the needed accessories to support any indoor or outdoor climb.

It’s the type of variety that attracts clientele of all sorts.

“We get all kinds of different people, from people looking for a good workout to climbers looking to better themselves for when they go out to outdoor climbs,” Stonehenge owner Derren Beland said. “For me, I love the freedom of climbing.

“I love being able to go out and not worry about day-to-day life. Climbing demands you to focus tremendously on what you are doing and block out everything else.”

Beland touts climbing as “a unique sport that builds strength, flexibility, and balance. Great for the young, as well as the young at heart.”

The gym is open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. It offers special booking to private groups on off hours.

Sonora’s climbing enthusiasts have been treated to the spectacle inside Class 5 Fitness, where 40-foot stationary walls and leadable walls offer a challenge to both members and non-members of Class 5.

The gym hosts climbing nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), is open to the public, and offers climbs to members 24 hours a day.

“Anyone can come in and climb,” Spencer Holmes of Class 5 said. “We have a couple instructors, so you don’t need to know anything about climbing, you can just show up.”

Sonora’s Class 5 Fitness is at 20860 Mechanical Drive and can be reached at 209-532-5556. Modesto’s Stonehenge Climbing Gym is at 500 Ninth St. and can be reached at 209-521-3644.

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