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The Boulders Climbing Gym: A Place Where Next Generation of Climbers is Born

The Boulders Climbing Gym is a not-for-profit society in Central Saanich, BC, with the mandate of making climbing accessible for everyone, regardless of ability or ability to pay. Over the years, the gym underwent several changes and expansions and with over 13,000 square feet (1,208 square meters) of climbing space, the gym has become not only a community facility, but a unique social enterprise, providing adaptive recreation and rehabilitation programs, youth recreational and competitive programs, as well as facilitating a climbing academy. The entire staff is volunteer‎-driven, and it's amazing to see what they have done over the years - from having a little gym to hosting the World Youth Championship in 2013. Let's have a peek inside.
The Boulders Climbing Gym: A Place Where Next Generation of Climbers is Born

It all started with Stellys Secondary School' teacher who liked to climb, and saw climbing as a valuable teaching tool. In 1995, Peter Mason took his enthusiasm and some perseverance, and built a small climbing wall on the outside of the school gym. Twenty years later, the boulders is now home to a high school academy, youth teams, climbing groups and of course regular folks.

The very first portion of the gym is about ‎7.5m tall, and was built in 1993, on the outside of the school. It was later enclosed, but it still exists (it was retextured in 10 years ago), and is used for top-roping and teaching. Adjacent to this is the gym's  1st expansion, which opened in 2005. It has bouldering of different types, from 3 to 3.7m in height, a small portion of which is specific for teaching and various rehabilitation programs (including a belay track). A portion is of various angles for training and public use, including a long tunnel to a second floor bouldering terrain. The rest of this space is top-roping, up to 7.4m tall.

The gym's holds are primarily from European and North American producers, and regularly, you'll find new and interesting shapes in there. Alison Stewart-Patterson in the picture.

"November 2005 was the start of us being open to the public in a daily fashion, and the start of our current model. We were (and remain!) open to the public on evenings and weekends, and the access fees paid ‎to climb recreationally help pay for our not-for-profit activities, which include a range of youth, adaptive recreation and climbing therapy programs. We facilitate school use as well," says the Chair Kimanda Jarzebiak.

There is the climbing academy, which replaces two classes a year with varied climbing topics (from outdoor traditional climbing to training theory, and competition-related skills, like judging), to a course called recreation management, where students learn to run the facility and host school groups from around the Island. The gym also teach basic climbing to every student in the school (approximately 1100 students), through Grade 9 PE. This is connected by a mezzanine‎ a  competition facility as well as a cross-training studio.  

"Our competition facility (costing about $3m, raised through grants and donations) opened in late 2011. It includes a certified 15m speed wall (a new women's world record was set on it in May 2015 at the kick-off to the IFSC Speed World Cup series), and is over 18 meters tall. It is indoor/outdoor thanks to a large 15.5m by 15.5m "door" that opens and closes," Kimanda describes the gym's most recent expansion.

The staff consist of 3 full-time and 15 part-time professionals, coaches and instructors. "We also have a partnership with a local sport-sciences institute (the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence) that provides our competitive athletes with services like athletic therapy, pre-habilitation assessments, testing and mental coaching. Between this and our coaching staff and facility, I think it might be why more top Canadian and international athletes use are services and train with us (including Sean McColl when he is in Canada, Elan Jonas McRae, Libor Hroza, Robert Stewart-Patterson, Delaney Miller and Kai Lightner)," Kimanda sums up.

Adam Ondra at recent Word Climbing Camp

BC's pride - Alison Stewart-Patterson

Canadian born Sean McColl

USA's Delaney Miller

What Kimanda and the rest of the team did in Central Saanich is an example worth to follow - they have created a world-class gym on Canadian soil that meets and exceeds the needs of all their user groups - and that's rather rare these days. Despite their success, they know, there is no room to rest on their laurels, and currently, Kimanda and co talk over with community groups to assess the possibility of another expansion - to add 45m (in length) of world cup bouldering, as part of a multi-sport facility next to their current competition facility. Pay the gym a visit if you can. Find the place on the map of Locations...

Photos: © Christian J. Stewart Photography

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