Canada’s Climb­ing Hot Spot Now Has A Com­mer­cial Gym

Gripped - - THE GYM - Story by Drew Copeland Drew Copeland is a climber and writer based on the West Coast.

Well, the day has fi­nally ar­rived: Squamish is now home to a com­mer­cial climb­ing gym. On Dec. 12, the Ground Up Climb­ing Cen­tre of­fi­cially opened its doors and Squamish climbers are cel­e­brated. The event was well-at­tended by the climb­ing com­mu­nity and Squamish at large.

Dur­ing the day, peo­ple dan­gled on ropes and tested out the prob­lems on out the 30- me­tre-long boul­der­ing wall. By the evening, ev­ery­one felt right at home and en­joyed DJs, cir­cus folk, hoola­hoop­ers and aerial silks per­form­ers. The process of build­ing a gym like Ground Up is a colos­sal un­der­tak­ing in any lo­ca­tion. Squamish, be­ing one of the most pop­u­lar climb­ing ar­eas in North Amer­ica and the cen­tre of hard gran­ite climb­ing in Canada, pre­sented a dis­tinct set of chal­lenges and cir­cum­stances.

Lau­ren Wat­son has been grind­ing it out for sev­eral years to bring this dream into re­al­ity. “Be­cause it is such a climb­ing­fo­cused town and such a young town with so many kids and new par­ents, you have a lot of dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions,” said Wat­son on open­ing day. “Find­ing a way to re­ally cater to all of those de­mo­graph­ics and mak­ing sure that you are cre­at­ing an in­clu­sive com­mu­nity, it’s a huge chal­lenge.”

Pre­vi­ously, when au­tumn rolled around, the rain forced rock climbers in­doors, but Squamish climbers had only a few op­tions. One was a home train­ing walls, an­other was to drive into Van­cou­ver to a gym and an­other was to head to the co-op, which was opened in 2008 thanks to the hard work by Jeremy Smith and Tyson Braun.

Ground Up is year-round

space ac­com­mo­dat­ing the vary­ing in­ter­ests of Squamish hard-core climbers, recre­ational climbers and fam­i­lies with their chil­dren. You couldn’t ask for a bet­ter space. “It’s not a new climb­ing com­mu­nity for the most part, but then on an­other level, it

1,000 Com­mer­cial Way, Squamish, B.C. 3,000 square me­tres 12 me­tres 2,400 square me­tres

30 me­tres



Ei­ther a decade of dream­ing or since the start of 2013, de­pend­ing on your per­spec­tive. to­tally is,” said Wat­son, who checked out over 40 gyms dur­ing the vi­sion­ing process. “There’s a whole whack of peo­ple who have never climbed or who have lived here their en­tire lives, but have never had ac­cess to climb­ing. So you are try­ing to cre­ate this space where all of those new peo­ple feel com­fort­able and feel catered to.”

The climb­ing struc­ture at Ground Up was de­signed and built with Ver­ti­cal So­lu­tions. Part­ner­ships with top climb­ing gear man­u­fac­tur­ers sup­plied the gym with hard­ware, ap­parel and shoes. The re­sult of the ex­ten­sive re­search and plan­ning put into Ground Up is not only an in­cred­i­ble climb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but also a beau­ti­ful and es­thetic space. “It’s more of a new­er­gym con­cept where you have sep­a­rate ar­eas for dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties or clien­tele,” said Wat­son, who un­der­scores the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity in a pro­ject like this.

“We’re re­ally fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing a cul­ture and a com­mu­nity: look­ing at a more holis­tic view where it’s a place you could come and get coffee, do work, see a phys­io­ther­a­pist, train and so­cial­ize. We wanted a dy­namic space and that is what, I think, we have cre­ated.” Squamish is grow­ing and chang­ing. For the past 50 years, it has drawn top climbers from around the world to try hard routes. Thanks to Lau­ren Wat­son, now ev­ery­one has a place to train on rainy days, too.

Ground Up is ready. The doors are open, mem­ber­ships have been pur­chased and the ex­cite­ment stoke is high. For Wat­son and the gang, there is still work ahead. “There are a lot of ideas that have yet to come to fruition,” she said, not­ing pend­ing up­grades to the train­ing area, the cre­ation of more train­ing pro­grams and new events. “The skills that you learn here will be trans­fer­able to out­door climb­ing,” said Wat­son. “You have to ex­pect that each per­son who walks in will be one day be trad climb­ing out­side and you want them to be pre­pared.”

Build­ing climb­ing gyms is about more than climb­ing, it’s about busi­ness and ded­i­ca­tion. Wat­son turned her dream i nto a re­al­ity we can all en­joy. A big thanks to her and ev­ery­one who helped with this pro­ject. As Wat­son said, “It’s just a start­ing point for what’s to come, for what we can do with this space and with the com­mu­nity.”

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