Sunday, March 27, 2005

Indoor for the rainy season

Waterton Scrambling

Greetings to all from Whitefish, Montana. Chris asked me to become a contributor on the Blog and post some of my climbing exploits from time to time. Well, my wife and I just had a baby, so my exploits are on hold for a while (I figure at least six weeks). I can, however make a small contribution on a climbing related issue.

My job down here requires that I do quite a bit of traveling. Since I’m not as gifted as Chris Sharma (or the Famous Blair Piggot), I have to work at staying in shape for climbing. Traveling and work seem to cut into my climbing schedule. My solution has been to cram my least smelly pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag into my suit case and seek out a climbing gym in each new town I come to. This got me thinking….why isn’t there more information on climbing gyms? Sure there’s the ads in the back of Climbing and Rock and Ice, but how does each gym rate? What do they cost? Is the staff friendly? For those of you that don’t give a rip about the shotty climbing gyms in the lower 48 and think that I need to get a life, there’s no need for you to read on. If you do care, here is my unofficial and incomplete climbing gym review:

Note: since I’m only packing my shoes and chalkbag and flying solo, I’m typically bouldering at these gyms. Therefore, this review is from a bouldering perspective. The roped climbing at most of these places looked great (for plastic).

Seattle, Washington

Vertical World  ( ($15, USD) Touted as the country’s first climbing gym, they can also boast that they are the most expensive. However, it’s a great place to get a good workout. It’s probably the gym I’ve visited the most during my trips. Friendly climbers and staff and they do a great job of rotating out old problems and putting up great new ones. The only bummer is the pea-gravel used as cushioning in the bouldering area. It really gets your shoes dirty, but easily washes off.

Stone Gardens  ( ): ($15, USD) Same price as Vertical World (the equivalent of three lattes’), but way more geared for bouldering. If you can stand the crowds and crank with the hard guys, this is the place to see and be scene. They have great problems with lots of steepness.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Stone Age Climbing Gym  ( ): ($12.50 USD) Great gym with a equal space dedicated to bouldering and roped climbing. Lots of great problems with friendly people that dance V7’s for a warm-up. A large gym made even larger with a recent expansion. Albuquerque is a cool city and New Mexico in general is worth a road trip. They have almost flawless weather, large amounts of rock, and the most unique twist on Mexican food. Green chili…..Red chili….Yum!

St Louis, Missourri

Upper Limits Climbing Gym  ( ): ($12, USD) Okay, lets get all the flat Midwest jokes out of the way. I have no idea where these guys climb outside – maybe there’s a local quarry or they just builder on the abandoned downtown buildings. Either way, when they climb inside they climb hard! This gym had some of the most proud problems of any of the gyms I hit. I struggled trying to find anything to warm up on and it didn’t take long to get completely spent. The bummers about this gym were some less than sociable locals and the “No shoes off” rule. Apparently the City of St. Louis’ Health Department is concerned with spread of climbing shoe funk and has gone to drastic measures to see this epidemic comes to a stop.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Stretch’s Garage  (No website): ($0, USD) While Minneapolis / St. Paul does have a few climbing gyms, the place to be is Stretch’s Garage but it requires a special invitation. I luckily got in through a “friend of a friend” type deal. Security was tight and upsetting Stretch (A.K.A. Stretch Armstrong – don’t make him flex) is not advised. Seriously though, these guys make up for their geographic handicap by training like fiends between their long awaited road trips. Stretch’s garage features about 400square feet of climbing with no vertical in site. The bonus was getting to climb on holds made by SO-ILL. These holds have some really creative shapes, no not like ABC’s or some midget’s skull, but intricate features not found on a lot of cheaper holds. If you have some space to fill on your home wall, I would recommend giving SO-ILL a try.

Casper, Wyoming

The Peak  (No Website): ($7, USD) Can you believe they even have a climbing gym in Casper? Much less a flippin’ good one? But Casper, a town of 50,000 farmers, students and oil barrens, is probably the smallest town to also have a Hummer dealership (I’ll leave my semi-political slanders out – it would just be too easy). Back to the climbing gym… for the size of the gym this was probably my favorite gym. It’s smaller than most, but has everything you need - quality steep bouldering, friendly staff, and cheap rates. Afterwards swing into Roberto’s down the street for a killer smothered burrito. It’s suppose to be smothered in green chili, but I thought it resembled a spicy gravy. Good and cheap nonetheless.

Gillette, Wyoming

Club Energize  (No Website): ($??) Okay, why the hell aren’t you going to Devil’s Tower instead of a lame-ass health club? If you don’t have time to go to the Tower, you’re probably better off just hitting the treadmill at the hotel while watching re-runs of That 70’s Show.

Denver, Colorado

Thrillseekers  ( ): ($10, USD) Denver has a wide selection of indoor and outdoor climbing to chose from, but Thrillseekers was the closest to my hotel. It’s right in downtown Denver with good parking. Great climbing, friendly staff and reasonable rates. The building was originally a theater and makes for a unique climbing gym. The upstairs balcony is a bouldering room, but has pretty short routes. There is also a pumpy 300’ traverse problem that goes around the entire building – pumpy!

Well, that’s all I have for now, but I’m hitting the road again next week and taking my shoes with me. If you find yourself in a similar situation (traveling and want to get a workout in), you might checkout . They have a pretty good list of most indoor climbing facilities. Some of it is outdated, but at least it’s a starting point.



At 4/04/2005 06:36:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sure have been getting around! Good to hear that the baby is doing well. Is there a gym around Whitefish? 

Posted by chris goble


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