The gym that started it all
In 1990, there were few resources for climbers in Toronto. Southern Ontario crags are good, but far from downtown. When the CN Tower had its 25th birthday, a few climbers scaled the tower’s elevator shaft, any port in a stor m. Nowadays, there are over 30 indoor walls throughout the Toronto area, and countless other home gyms. It all started with Bob Bergman, his wife Sharon and his brother Brian.
Committed climbers, the Bergmans had the vision to build a climbing g ym after only one year of climbing. Climbing was becoming more mainstream, but it was st i l l f ive years away from booming. “When I f irst set out, I had hoped to provide myself with a place to climb on a reg ular basis,” said Bob. “After a few months, I hoped it might of fer enough i ncome that I wouldn’t have to get another job for a year or t wo. That was 1989.” Before the climbing g ym, climbers had no “meeting place” where al l t ypes of climbers could meet and discuss the spor t and its st yles. The old-school, adventure-focused world of traditional climbing was about to meet the high-per for mance futur istic, “g ymnastic st yle” spor t climbing. Rockhead’s was a place where old debates were put aside and training became a common pr ior it y.
Climbers from both sides of the fence shared space in a cramped warehouse in the middle of Toronto and for the f irst time an integrated climbing community emerged. Climbers of al l ages and backgrounds joined together to discuss the latest training techniques and often joined together for a beer. Over time, the word spread and the cur ious found their way to the out-of-the-way Rockhead’s in Toronto’s west end.
Bob was an experienced motorcycle racer who, along with Brian, directed that energ y into competitive climbing. During the f irst two years, the gym hosted competitions for climbers around North America, Rockhead’s was becoming a rock climbing institution for elite athletes and beginner climbers.
The routesetting earned Rockhead’s a reputation as the best, the routes were set like outdoor climbs which were changed weekly. Bob and Brian had widespread exper ience in competition routesetting and they built sophisticated routes for climbers at a l l levels. Then in 1992, the Bergman’s hosted the f irst Canadian National Sport Climbing Championships at the Canadian National Exhibition ( cne). For the f i r st time in Canada, the sport was shown to the general public and thousands of people tr ied climbing for the f irst time. It was the coming-of-age for sport climbing, as the reg ional climbers competed with national climbers. Ever y new climber received a