Joe Rock­head’s

The gym that started it all

Gripped - - THE GYM -

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

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