Gym. Crag. Repeat.Wednesday, October 10, 2018
I started climbing when I was 14 years old. My parents would drop my younger brother and I off at the local climbing gym nearly every day throughout that first summer and we would be there for up to 8 hours at a time. We would climb until our hands were raw and bleeding, then walk down the street to the closest grocery store or gas station, grab some snacks, and then head back to the gym for more. We were obsessed.
My first job was at the local gym, belaying kids at birthday parties. When I turned 16, I was finally allowed to use a ladder and I began route setting. I basically lived in climbing gyms from when I was 14 until I was in my early 20’s—mostly because of my obsession with progressing as a climber, but also because gyms and the climbing community felt like home.
In my mid 20’s I finally had the chance to take a step back from the gym world by having the opportunity to climb full-time. With support from a gracious group of sponsors, I was fortunate enough to have the free time and means to travel to all the amazing outdoor climbing destinations I’d dreamed about for years. I jumped from continent to continent chasing the colder temps of winter and reveled in the vagabond lifestyle.
Nearly four years later, the toll of constant travel started to weigh on me and I traded some of those freedoms for a job and some stability. Wanting to stay involved in climbing I started route setting again and found myself spending more time in the climbing gym than I had in years. But something was missing, climbing gyms had changed. I didn’t quite feel at home with the sterile commercialization of the new “super gyms”.
Over the following year, I amassed a collection of ideas about how I wanted to steer the next generation of climbers through their early experiences in climbing gyms. For better or worse, the gym is now most people’s first experience with the sport, and the community they are brought into dictates the kind of climber they will be for years to come. Many of them will eventually find their way outside and how they treat our cherished outdoor areas is a culmination of the examples set forth by the community and mentorship that exists in the local gyms. With my experience in both the indoor and outdoor climbing worlds, I wanted to find a way to utilize my knowledge to create a bigger, better, stronger, more accepting, more empowered, and more respectful climbing community. In my mind, the best way to do that was to build and operate the hub of a climbing community … a climbing gym.