One of my favorite documentaries of all time is “Free Solo.” The movie is about a free solo rock climber named Alex Honnold who made his way up the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park with no rope or safety harness.

The movie made me wonder why I’m so afraid of spiders when there are humans climbing up walls of cliffs without ropes. It also made me want to learn how to rock climb — a more subdued version, of course, possibly with a harness around me and a floor mat beneath me.

So in 2019 I took a go at bouldering, which is essentially horizontal rock climbing with shorter walls, no harnesses and plenty of cushy floor mats. I enjoy being active, but the real reason I enjoyed bouldering was for the people-watching. I love watching chalk-covered climbers hang upside-down like spider monkeys, holding all their body weight with just two fingers. So bouldering became a sort of weekly pastime for me for a few months, before COVID-19 shut down the world.

Now that the world is slowly and carefully starting to open back up, rock climbing and bouldering facilities are finding ways to keep guests safe while providing a creative way for families to be active indoors.

Where to ‘hang out’

Vertical Endeavors is allowing limited walk-in appointments as well as reservations for non-members, and is running a deal through the end of February that might make you want to become a self-proclaimed climber.

The Minnesota-based rock climbing company has a bouldering facility in St. Paul, where you can put your inner free solo to the test, as well as traditional rock climbing facilities in Bloomington, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

The entry price for non-members at Vertical Endeavors is typically $20 to climb and up to $12 for rentals, which includes shoes, a harness and a belay device. But through the end of February, customers can purchase a 10-pass punch card (which can be shared with other people) for $128 each, or $12.80 per day pass. Those passes, which do not include rentals, can be used at any Vertical Endeavors site.

Those wanting to make a day out of it can even sign up for a $10 yoga or fitness class at the Vertical Endeavors Twin Cities Bouldering location in St. Paul before or after they climb, though the fitness class price does not cover the rock climbing admission fee.

While walk-ins are available on a limited basis at Vertical Endeavors, reservations are recommended, according to the organization’s website. Members and non-members are able to make climbing reservations for a two-hour time slot.

The Minneapolis Bouldering Project, located off West River Road in Minneapolis, is a bouldering facility that is open to non-members by reservation during its non-peak times, which includes weekdays and weekends, and is a great option for first-timers or those looking for an affordable full day of climbing and fitness.

Admission to the Minneapolis Bouldering Project is $12 for students and $16 for adults, and shoe rentals, which normally cost $4, are free for first-timers. The Minneapolis Bouldering Project also offers 10-pass punch cards at $130 for adults and $100 for students.

A day pass to the Minneapolis Bouldering Project gets you in the whole gym for a day. That means you can go bouldering, take yoga and fitness classes and use their fitness training areas to make an entire day out of it. And if you’re working from home but need to escape your home, you can also use their co-working facility.

COVID-19 precautions

The rock climbing sites are doing all they can to open safely under current COVID-19 guidelines, according to their websites.

“There will be increased cleaning, disinfecting, and decontamination of facilities and equipment by both staff and patrons. We ask that climbers wash or sanitize their hands before and after each climb or belay. We ask that patrons using the fitness facilities wipe down any fitness equipment with disinfectant spray before and after use,” Vertical Endeavors posted on its website.

The Minneapolis Bouldering Project said on its website it will increase the frequency of the deep cleaning of its surfaces, and will also implement temperature scans and take other necessary precautions to keep its guests safe.