Saturday, October 17, 2009

10 WaysTo Make Your Climbing Gym Suck

Does YOUR climbing gym suck? No? Then read on!

Climbing-gym owners and managers regularly trade information about successful business strategies. There are online discussion groups, trade shows, web pages, yadda yadda. But what does NOT get much discussion is how to make your climbing gym SUCK.

So, in the spirit of public service, for which this blog is becoming hugely famous, "blowed up," as they say, we offer the following tips to owners, managers and belay staff-- those belittled, hard-pressed, often shell-shocked frontline workers-- on how to make your gym suck.

All of the ideas in this post come from Lower Mainland gyms. There are various Cliffhanger locations, the Edge in North Vancouver, Vertical Reality in Surrey, The Hangout in Richmond, etc. But we have also seen a few of these practices elsewhere, lest the B.C. gym owners get too big for their Prana britches.

10) When you upgrade and expand your gym make the new gym have only marginally more actual climbing space than the old one. But raise the rates.

9) If bouldering is what people really want to do, and you are moving to a new space, make the new bouldering space smaller, with sketchier landings that involve swinging onto a wooden railing, and less space to rest. Small spaces also allow you to jam so many problems together that dumm people, like me, have trouble telling the problems apart.

8) Advertise your new space as "a green building" before you move into it. Then, save money by not actually making it green. Make sure that it has paper-towel dispensers in the bathroom that only work when powered by electricity. Use electric fans instead of thinking out natural-air circulation systems to cool it. Use powerful electirc illumination instead of natural light during the day. Also important-- make the new location a good long way from public transit, which encourages people to drive.

7) The smallest space in the gym should be the bouldering cave. The largest should be the area in front of the reception desk.

6) Make the lead climbing areas only available for leading when there is nobody in the gym.

5) For the top-rope routes, make the top-rope anchor a one-point "V", so the climber will have to do the final move into the wedge of the rope. Avoid having a two-point anchor with one draw on the wall and another a foot or two away.

4) Change routes not more than every four months, whether they have all been climbed a thousand times or not. And ensure that tape which falls off problems or routes is not replaced.

3) If you are belay staff, make sure that, while working, your Facebook status remains updated, your Farmville crops monitored, and your tweets frequent. Please also ensure that you stay on top of your text messages, and remain on the floor to talk with your client friends. Your friends will appreciate your efforts and focus.

2) Musical special events are an excellent way to make your clientelle uncomfortable. Try an All Taylor Swift Evening. For this, all you need are six songs rotating through the MP3 player of your employee's choice. Or perhaps pick a local heavy-rock FM station and play it loudly enough that the climbers must use sign language to communicate with their belayers. This will make your clients in muscle shirts and backwards baseball hats-- and they are legion-- love you.

1) Massively mis-grade routes and problems, preferably by sandbagging. This allows the setters to feel the way nine-year olds do when watching special-needs children poop their pants, and it's good practice for more serious later spray sessions: "Yeah, I don't really know if that's 10a or 11c-- it's been a long time since I've climbed those grades."


  1. Am I to understand by the lack of recent posts that it is now officially pissing horozontal rain on the wet coast, and therefore the route will be ready for my vicious onsight FFA after a slight spring scrub?

  2. If you can onsight our first 5.12 pitch I will buy you an evening's beer.