COVID-19 has been brutal for the climbing community and for climbing gyms in particular. Every gym in the country, without exception, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Gyms, brands, and climbers alike are all trying to innovate and adapt to respond to the coronavirus and keep climbing safely. Our new Secret Stuff Hygienic Liquid Chalk is part of that initiative.
But beyond simply finding ways to climb safely, gyms need our support directly. They need people to donate and they need members and guests to come back and climb. However, if we were to come up with a listing of all the awesome climbing gyms that need your support right now, you’d be reading this article until the release of Reel Rock 58.
That said, here are five rad gyms worth supporting during COVID-19.
[2 locations in the Greater Cleveland area]
Nosotros is a cool little volunteer-operated gym from Cleveland, and one of the few gyms in the country registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. In addition to being staffed by volunteers, Nosotros has yearly charitable missions. In 2018, they provided 100 date nights for couples in the community. In 2019, they gave away a car to a local man in need. In 2020, their goal was to launch a student climbing club. Nosotros also donates throughout the year to various causes, such as giving away $5,100 to support a local middle school and $1,500 to support local low-income high school students.
To combat COVID-19, Nosotros is requiring masks and 6-foot social distancing, in addition to keeping capacity at 20 persons and setting up sanitization stations. For new climbers, Nosotros offers a pretty stellar deal: Unlimited climbing, shoes & chalk for 2 weeks for only $25!
[4 NC locations and 1 VA location]
Founded by two Force Recon Marine veterans in 2007, Triangle Rock Club has since expanded to encompass four locations in North Carolina and one in Richmond, Virginia. They have a pretty cool mission, with their principal goal to “promote and protect inclusive and welcoming access to rock climbing for people across socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and for people of all abilities.” They’ve followed through with this by partnering with a slew of nonprofits, such as Kai Lightner’s new organization Climbing For Change, Duke Adaptive Climbing, Fayetteville Adaptive Climbing, and GallantFew, a nonprofit that connects with veterans through outdoor recreation. One of the coolest initiatives TRC has is taking place at their Fayetteville location, where they offer weekly “Adaptive Climbing Classes” to provide access to climbing for youth with adaptive needs. In partnership with a local counseling center, the class doubles as an emotional well-being class, as well.
Among other precautions, TRC is requiring climbers to wear a mask at all times, reserve time slots in advance to climb, and check-in and out with the staff to keep with capacity regulations. For new climbers, TRC gives adults one day of all-access (gear included) at $15, and kids at $10.
Nestled in the heart of Soulsville, Memphis, Memphis Rox is perhaps the most unique climbing gym in the country, being the only gym I’ve heard of with a “pay-what-you-can” membership model. Memphis Rox offers the underprivileged the opportunity to volunteer at the gym or a local charity in return for membership.
They also perform a slew of community outreach. In the last year, Memphis Rox managed to provide 83 jobs to local youth and adults, serve over 17,000 lunches, meals, and snacks to those in need, offer after-school programming and mentoring for over 100 youth daily, and contribute over 3000 volunteer hours for the community.
Memphis Rox is currently open to the public, with mask-wearing, increased sanitization, social distancing, and other COVID restrictions in place. While the “pay-what-you-can” model is their official policy, for those who can afford it, suggested day use rates are $12 for adults and $10 for youth or students.
The Front has been a pillar in the SLC climbing scene since 1989, but they also do more than their fair share of giving back.
The Front founded the Impact Coalition in May 2018, to provide support for myriad nonprofits in the SLC community. Via this initiative, they match members’ annual donations up to $40,000! Since its inception, the Impact Coalition has given away over $90,780 to local nonprofits. They also partner with Farmer Next Door, a community-supported agriculture program that provides home delivery of local fresh produce and supports local farmers. The Front is currently supporting 23 local SLC farms via FND. These are just two of a number of unique give-back initiatives The Front has undertaken.
To combat COVID-19, The Front is screening members for symptoms before entering the facility, requiring masks, and using a reservation system to ensure plenty of room to social distance, among other initiatives. They also employ a dedicated “Sanitation Officer” that disinfects surfaces hourly.
All-access day passes for adults (including yoga classes, group fitness, Jiu-Jitsu, weights, and cardio) are $25 and for 13 & Under $15.
[2 locations in the Greater Detroit area]
Planet Rock has been a fixture in the Detroit climbing scene for years, and is still fighting on through the pandemic with member-only climbing sessions reserved online, although the gym currently doesn’t plan to reopen to the general public until December.
Planet Rock has a long history of giving back to the community. In 2019 alone, Planet Rock’s annual giving programs included donations to Alternatives for Girls, Attack Hunger, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, Ypsilanti Clothes Closet, and Gleaners Food Bank. The gym also offers 100+ no or low-cost climbing opportunities to local schools, independent fundraisers, and nonprofits such as the American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boy Scouts of America, Courageous Kids, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Focus HOPE, Meals on Wheels, and many more.
To help in the fight against COVID-19, everyone in the gym (staff included) is required to wear a mask at all times, and no gaiters, bandanas, or masks with respirators will be allowed. Upon entrance, every climber is temperature checked using a touchless device, and gym areas are cleaned and disinfected multiple times each day. Planet Rock offers Starter Sessions for new climbers here.
Owen Clarke is a climbing journalist and connoisseur of the art of making easy routes look difficult. He is a columnist for Rock & Ice, Gym Climber, and The Outdoor Journal, and has been climbing for 13 years. Follow his thoughts in his opinion column, “The Choss Pile,” published every Thursday on Rock & Ice.