By Laura Keil
A new sport is on the horizon for Valemount residents, one that proponents say is user-friendly, incrementally challenging, and good for many ages: indoor bouldering, which is wall climbing without ropes.
Thanks largely to a grant from Columbia Basin Trust, the Valemount Climbing Club has been hard at work upgrading a space at the Trading Post to turn it into an epic climbing spot for kids and adults. John Crowley and Justin Wilkes have been volunteering their time to construct the interior and get it up to code, while other board members have taken on promotion and operations.
“Different people have different skills sets,” says Rebecca Wylie, a board member. “Kelsey Brick is our other board member who has been super instrumental, she’s done a lot on the website.”
Volunteer Jory Wong has also been active, helping to design fundraising T-shirts.
The club expects the 14ft-high climbing walls to be installed this month, with a tentative opening date in October. The pre-fab climbing walls are being constructed by a company on Vancouver island, and will be shipped and installed this month.
Wylie says indoor bouldering is a great activity because it’s very low-risk, good for kids and adults alike and has a low barrier to entry. All climbers need is a set of climbing shoes.
Below the walls will be thick crash mats, over a foot thick. Near the entry will be a designated climbing area for little kids.
Crowley says, like gymnastics, bouldering requires a combination of balance, tension, core strength and general strength.
It’s a full-body work-out, Wylie says. “It could be cardio if you’re really fast, it could be all those big muscle movements that you’re doing which are really good for everyone, but especially kids with, say, ADHD and kids who don’t get those big body movements which are really important for development.”
She says she likes to think of bouldering as a full-body puzzle. The holds on the wall are colour-coded to provide different levels of difficulty in the same space.
“The size and distance (of holds) and the grade of the wall are all things that make the climb more challenging.”
She says a route is often too hard the first time, and the climber has to attempt it again and think about how they will “solve the problem.” Wylie loves watching different people solve the problem in different ways. And people with different skill levels can all be in the same space and encouraging one another.
The other aspect to the gym is socializing. Wylie says people familiar with climbing gyms understand what a community space it is.
“In November when it’s dark and we have a space to come after work and hang out and be active, it’s going to be such a benefit. But I think people who haven’t been to climbing gyms before are like, ‘oh, this is such a great play gym for the kids.’”
The upper mezzanine will be an area for non-climbers to watch climbers at eye-height and visit with others. The upper space includes a public washroom and a party room for birthdays. Wylie says other clubs noted an important element to a successful climbing gym is making it community-oriented so people want to hang out in the space.
“This space really captures that,” she said.
“They also said proximity to a hip coffee shop,” John added, referring to VALE Coffee in the same building. “That’s pretty much the best thing you can get.”
Wylie says the idea is to have drop-in days each week, and the rest of the time to allow members access via a key fob from 7am-10pm, 7 days a week, which will allow greater flexibility and lower staffing costs.
Wylie and Crowley say landlords Ryker and Rena have been incredibly supportive and gone out of their way to help.
Despite the grants, the club has a construction shortfall of around $10,000 and is looking for sponsors to help them finish off the construction and install a better heating system. Sponsors that donate over $1000 will have a place on a sponsor wall inside the gym.
They’ve begun selling year-long memberships for $525 and 6-month memberships for $275 (includes membership to the Climbing Club). The pre-sales will help them raise the funds they need to complete construction. Once they’re open, people are welcome to trade volunteer hours for passes.
“We need volunteers,” Wylie says. “I think Valemount’s such a great community, everyone helps each other out, so it’d be sweet to make sure we’re also part of that and continue the active lifestyle trend that’s going on.”
Additional grants that have made the gym possible thus far include a grant from the Regional District of Fraser Fort George to cover utilities the first winter season, and sponsorships from the Valemount Community Forest, Gravity Gear and Coulee Climbing.
For more info, visit Valemountclimbingclub.org.