Canada’s Climbing Hot Spot Now Has A Commercial Gym
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
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.”