But that doesn't matter, because the perfect sport has been rediscovered: bouldering. The competitive strain of rock-climbing, bouldering is one of the oldest, non-celebrity-endorsed, total-body workouts out there. That Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger was as close as rock-climbing came to having a famous patron, but the movie's lameness ensured that rock-climbing wouldn't be mainstreamed.
And that's because rock-climbing is a deeply personal experience. It's you and the course, with nothing else to help you. In bouldering everyone is faced with the same obstacle (a vertical, man-made course of hand- and foot-holds) and the same goal (climb it). But how you solve the problem of ascent is up to you. Quick decisions and self-trust play as much, if not more, of a role as strong hands and limberness. Mental acuity knows no age, and so a teenager can climb a better route than a stud in his mid-thirties, and a woman in her fifties can out-climb them both. But really, it's not about competition between people: It's about you versus yourself and that means as long as you're doing it, you're winning.
But maybe a little competition between people isn't such a bad thing, either. The Upper Limits Rock Climbing Gym (326 South 21st Street; 314-241-7625 or www.upperlimits.com) hosts the fifth annual Gateway Bouldering Bash today from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the best climbers in the area test themselves in the American Bouldering Series-sanctioned competition. The Bouldering Bash is a Redpoint-format climb with a three-hour time limit, and your top five scores determine the overall winner. Which is pretty technical information for non-climbers, but you can visit www.rockcomps.com for a full explanation of the rules. The Bash is intended just for climbers, however, and spectators are limited to immediate family and coaches (and have a $2 admission fee). February is Bring-a-Friend Month at Upper Limits, though, so if you're a novice and interested in rock-climbing, you can go with a friend between Saturday, February 11, and Tuesday, February 14, and receive a half-price daily pass with each full admission. Otherwise, show up this morning, pony up the $30-to-$35 admission fee, and try your hand in the recreational division.