The Ice Coop: First U.S. Indoor Drytooling Gym
The one-of-a-kind training space is holding a drytool comp on Nov. 7
Last year saw the soft opening of a 2,000 square-foot training centre in Boulder. The space is designed to give competitive athletes the edge they need to go against the top drytoolers in the world, including Russians, Iranians and Koreans, and to prepare for the sport’s possible inclusion in future Olympics.
Like free climber Jerry Moffatt’s famous training gym, the School Room in Sheffield, England, the Ice Coop is a small, unpolished center with steep plywood walls. It’s designed with one thing in mind: get strong. It’s not pretty or flashy; you go there to engrain movement, tweak footwork, and build muscle. For inspiration, competitive drytooling videos play on a loop by the bouldering cave.
On Nov. 7, they’re hosting the Kick and Pick, their first drytool compeition since opening.
In addition to the Ice Coop, Sally Gilman and husband Colby Rickard also own Rock and Resole, which is nearby the Coop. Rock and Resole is one of the top resolers in the US, and they stock specialty climbing gear from around the world.
They built the Ice Coop, Sally said, “for anyone who is psyched and curious about the sport. Mixed and drytooling is hard to get into, it’s intimidating, and you need to go with someone who is knowledgeable. People can come here to try it out and see what it feels like.”
Colby adds, “People think with gyms it’s ‘pack em in climbing’ with lots of square footage and waiting in line for climbs. That’s just not us. This is like a really large woody. We have a bouldering cave, free weights, a Figure 4 training structure and we’re putting in a systems board.”
Though Colby and Sally promoted the Ice Coop around to potential sponsors, no one was interested, so the business is self-funded. However, they do get product support from CAMP and SCARPA. Sally said, “Since we’re the first in the US to open an indoor training center like this, the focus is on the enthusiasm for the sport.” They built the gym as a training center so today’s youth can go against the best drytoolers in the world. The Ice Coop is their solution.
“Most gyms in the US prohibit climbers from using tools, while around the world you can find gyms that allow for ‘mixed,’” states TheIceCoop.com. “Using ice tools and crampons indoors can be done in a very safe way. And that’s the goal of the Ice Coop, to give a home to those climbers who want to get more comfortable and stronger using the tools of the trade.”
Located at 2500 47th St. #2, in Boulder, the gym equipped with 15-foot walls and has a variety of holds including steel pucks. To simulate competition walls, the gym uses similar plywood to what World Championship climbers are accustomed to kicking their front points into.
The Ice Coop’s drytooling holds (steel, rock and resin) come from South Korea, Switzerland, Russia, Canada, and the US. From Canada, they use Howey Tool drytooling holds. Fruit boots by SCARPA and ice tools by CAMP can be rented at the front desk, or purchased at Rock and Resole.
Because Boulder is above 1,525 metres, training here helps visiting climbers acclimate before taking on the hard lines found in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. “What’s the vibe like?” Colby said. “You can have different strategies and curriculums. Tyler Kempney, our manager, set a 100-move problem on one wall. There is also time trials and transitioning challenges, like boulder problems between two hard holds. It’s not limited to any format. You can fine-tune technique here. And you can be around mentors.”
“We’ve designed it so that we don’t get people hurt. This is why our bouldering wall isn’t that tall. You don’t want to be high off the ground when falling out of a drop-knee in crampons. Here you also learn how the rebound on crampons works with wood.” Kempney, who route sets and coaches at the Coop has climbed M15-, and he competes at UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships.
Colby said, “We have had conversations with international climbers who have said they’d want to come for a month or a few weeks to train. This is perfect for that. It provides a real-time experience to what you’ll do on a comp route.”