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For the Love of Climbing Gyms: A Valentine’s Day Special

A few months ago, we asked people to send in love letters to their climbing gyms. The letters we received were great and they were indeed filled with love (even Jon’s not-a-love-letter), but they were less about the gyms’ features and more about love for climbing as a sport and the climbing community. The sentiments were not so much about the facility but the activity, not the walls but the people who fill them.

I can relate to this. The feelings stirred in me by all the gyms I’ve called home are overwhelmingly informed by the way the climbers I met at those gyms and rock climbing in general have shaped my life.

But today, on Valentine’s Day, I want to share my love for climbing gyms themselves. Here is my letter…

For the Love of Climbing Gyms

I love the big, open spaces. Whether they’re packed or empty, we relate differently to ourselves and to others in big spaces.

I love the geometry of volumes.

I love the beautiful chaos of spray walls and the order of the campus board.

I love the many colours, shapes and textures of climbing holds. They make gyms so visually stimulating.

I love the posters on the walls – from movie screenings and access meetings, to autographed climbing photos and partner sign-up sheets.

I love the hundreds of little bolt holes in the plywood. They create a pattern that’s always there but you rarely notice. They represent potential, and they sometimes shine like little stars if there’s a light source on the other side.

I love that gym routes and problems are impermanent; your time with them is limited so you have to live in the moment, enjoy the moves now, try hard now.

I love sitting on the padded floor in-between climbs. This way of sitting is humbling to our egos, equalizing with one another, and makes life a little less serious.

I love how when you climb in a gym you are engaging with the setter’s vision/creation when he or she is not there.

I love the interesting shapes the angles of the walls make – most walls are straight and at 90 degrees to the ceiling; climbing gyms are filled with walls at varying degrees. It’s like walking through a fun house or being inside a cubist artwork.

It’s for all these reasons that you can go into any gym around the world, one you’ve never been to before, and feel a degree of comfort there, something familiar about it.

And I love that.

Up The Bloc, Photo by Migüel Jetté