Perched atop the familiar structure of the 1 Utama Shopping Centre is a large, bottle-green glass box that can be seen from a distance as you drive Northwards on the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP). The Camp 5 climbing gym has become a regular sight since its construction almost nine years ago. Accessible through the shopping mall on the fifth floor, the gym boasts itself as the largest indoor climbing gym in Asia.
The entrance itself is a bit hidden away, tucked behind the Crossfire arcade and right next to the Neway karaoke lounge. Open seven days a week, you can start climbing from 2 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. The entry costs can be quite pricey, especially if you have to rent gear and shoes; remember to flash your student card for a discount if you have one!
The first thing you'll see upon entering the gym is the auto wall, where climbers can take to the wall solo without the aid of a belayer. The auto belay is available for a number of routes here, and it's just a matter of locking yourself into the carabiner to begin climbing. Where a belayer would usually be the one to lower you at the end of your climb, the auto belay does so automatically. It's a little scary the first couple of times, but it's fun once you get the hang of it.
The bouldering cave at the very back of the gym is a favourite spot of mine - it's got enough space to warm up in and a variety of routes and wall faces that cater to beginners as well as experienced climbers. Up, down, across, upside down, there's a little something for the monkeys in all of us. It's also a very cosy area to hang out in groups of friends while you take turns to scale the walls.
Now you've explored the first floor of the gym, it's time to move upstairs. You could always take the stairs, but if you're looking for something different you could always try an alternative instead. These walls are located just outside the bouldering cave and lead all the way up to the second floor where the lead-climbing walls are. Once you've reached the top, muster up some strength to swing yourself over and onto the safety of carpeted ground. This is called doing a 'top-out'. It's important to have a friend spotting you from below while doing so.
Once upstairs, you'll be under the shadow of the massive lead climbing walls, towering 16 metres up to the ceiling. Lead climbing is more for experienced climbers, and involves clipping your rope into carabiners as you make your way up the rock face. If you're already an expert with top-roping and would like to try something new, Camp 5 offers lead climbing courses at RM200 for a 6 hour session. Once confident with that, you can continue to take a second outdoor lea climbing course for RM300.
The upper level of the gym offers a lot of top-roping routes; and when I say a lot, I'm really not kidding. Each section has a different name: Castle Wall, Sentinel Wall, Vista Wall, Trad Wall and Pro Wall, the latter being the lead-climbing area. Just grab a route list from the rental counter near the entrance, and you'll be able to find out what walls are within your ability. The easiest top-roping climbs are 5a, and the difficulty rating ascends from there: 5b, 5c, 6a, 6b, etc.
Right between all these top-roping routes is the Trad Wall, a section crafted to look like an actual rock face. Rustic brown, the wall is riddled with cracks, crevices and lots of friction for a good grip. However, this area is usually not available during course sessions where new climbers are introduced to belaying. Speaking of which, the gym offers a range of courses and sessions for new climbers, corporate events, children's parties and even a yoga class. The details and pricing of these sessions can be found on their website.
Even those who are not so keen on climbing can wait at the cafe located within the gym inside, which also happens to be a strategic spot to keep an eye on any little ones clambering about the miniature boulder shown above. However, I've never tasted the food available at the cafe so I can't comment on that. My sister warns against ordering the iced latte, as she considers it the worst coffee she has ever tasted.
Coffee blunder aside, Camp 5 is a great place for group functions or a day of bonding with friends or family. If you've got a OneCard, be sure to use it here to earn points!