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.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


While this may be a bit dated, I thought I would post it anyway. This weekend (March 20)I was up the Chief Mtn. highway. We went into Sofa to have a look at the East ridge. Unfortunately the snow was a bit unstable, and I lost the trail as usuall. Hence an easy day followed.

While driving back to the town site to find out that the hot tub wasn't open until 4:00pm, I managed a quick look at Sullivans. It looks to be in good shape. With these conditions I would think that the approach up the Vimy trail would be better than heading up over Sofa.

On Buchannon Ridge, opposite the Crandell Lake pullout, a couple of easy smears have come in. They don't look very good, and require a hop across the creek. However, since they rarely come in, I am not sure if they have been done. Trap Line (or whatever it is called) isn't in. Swedish Plumbing (or whatever it is called), below the Expert's choice pullout has been in for a while. Unfortunately since the creek isn't frozen solid, you have a hard time getting to it and belaying with out getting wet.

Right now Cardston and Waterton have at least twice the snow of Lethbridge. The skiing should be pretty good. I am not sure how Quick & Dirty and Expert's Choice are doing. Neither am I sure how Jensen's resevoir is doing. I would guess it is in but thin.

Monday, March 21, 2005


For all you backcountry buffs, skiing in Waterton yesterday was awesome!! Lisa and i hiked up Forum Ridge and bagged some excellent turns down the east side to Cameron Lake. From there we skied across the lake and slogged our way up the west face to the ridge of Summit Knob. Once at the top we stopped to rehydrate and then enjoyed some wicked turns down one of the "Five Fingers" back to Cameron lake. It was good to see Brad, Ron & Don out ripping up some powder as well. The only thing that would make yesterday better would be another week of 30 to 40cm of fluff!!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Kayak Session

Just a reminder that pool sessions are open at the UofL on Thursday evenings for those who are interested. This month things start at 7:45pm. You have to pay th $3.25 to get into the pool. If you have a boat, the rest is free. If you don't ORCKA will rent you one for $5. Members ($20), get free use of boats.

Charlie Russell

The Lethbridge Naturalist Society (no not a nudist group) is having a fund raiser Sunday March 20th at 7:30 at the Travel Lodge Hotel. They are bringing in Charlie Russell to talk about Siberian Grizzlies. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children. For more information click here for the pdf info sheet. (Hat tip Wilco)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Helicopter Tours

Well I have heard it around the grape vine that someone has been looking into setting up a helicopter tour business around the area. Presumably, this would be to offer tours around the mountains and, perhaps, through the park. The park regulations on transportation don't limit flights. I have heard that one stumbling block in the Pincher area has been ranchers disdain for the noise and effects flights may have on their herds. That and they probably don't like change and commercialization very much.

Monday, March 07, 2005


John Hannam is coming to the the lethbridge folk club this Saturday at 8:00. This is located next to the Penny downtown.

I saw his show at the Calgary folk fest this summer, and I was hooked. It is great Canadiana themed music. I thought he was by far the best act there. Well fiamma fumana was pretty good as well.

Tim Williams is also playing on the same night. He is down at Treats on Mayor Magrath.

Spring Couloirs

The couloir on the south side of Crypt Lake

With the warm temps over the last few weeks, people may be getting the itch to put their ice tools to use. While the north facing climbs still seem to be in excellent shape, don't count on anything south facing being in. With that said, there are a number of spring couloirs that may start to look more promising right now.

The prominent col on Spread Eagle peak arround Mt. Yarrow has had many a climber's eye.

The numerous snow col's facing the road on the Chief Mtn. highway some into shape during heavy snow years (problably not this year). They are all pretty similar in difficulty. The main challenge is the bottle neck through the rock band.

The prominent gully on the north side of Buchannon ridge is pretty nice. The bottle neck is much narrower than it looks. However, the angle is pretty low. Just watch out for the large amount of terrain that funnels into it.

The col' on the south side of Crypt lake is also another good one when the trail opens.

Iceberg notch is another popular gully. There are quite a few old pins in on this route. Some of the bulges get quite overhung late in the summer. Of course there is a 3rd class scramble just off the face to the right! The steep rock on the left has always had me eyeing my rock shoes.

So what else is there?


New Blogger

This is just a test.

Just thought I would update this with some extra info. For blog members who are making posts (not comments), seems like a good way to upload pictures if you don't have your own ftp site. It lets you blog from there as well.


Sunday Jessica and i spent an enjoyable afternoon climbing the Bear's Hump but when we arrived back at the truck we found we were both packing a lot of ticks. So be aware.....they are out and the tick season is only starting. Wait 'till May!!

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