Gyms offer a gripping intro | Squamish Chief

Gyms offer a gripping intro

Climber Jamie Finlayson looks at Squamish's soon-to-be new climbing gym


As I mentioned in my first column, climbing is becoming increasingly popular — more than 1,000 people try climbing for the first time each day in the U.S. But how does one get into climbing in Squamish? What are the avenues that are available? I am going to do a two-part series on introductions to climbing. The first part will focus on indoor gyms and the second on outdoor guiding.

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Indoor gym climbing is by far the most common way to try the sport of rock climbing and since the late 1980s, hundreds of thousands of people have been introduced to the sport in the gym setting. 

Gyms provide a superb, very safe way to learn the ropes, so to speak. With a controlled environment, they remove many of the external factors that are present when climbing outside. Big gyms are normally located in cities, making them very accessible to many people, offering many programs and instruction to help develop skills and safety procedures.

I personally climbed for the first time inside at a gym in Richmond, circa 1991, for my birthday party. I did not take up climbing for another four years — but it definitely planted the seed for me and opened my eyes to a sport that would later consume me.  

Lucky for Squamish residents, we are soon going to be getting a full-scale climbing gym. Currently Squamish has the Grandwall Bouldering Co-op located on Loggers Lane, which is more geared to the experienced climber. The Co-op is a great facility and an amazing training centre for the experienced climber. I have been a member for the past few years and have really benefited from the Co-op.

The new gym, Ground Up Climbing Centre, will offer courses geared toward kids and beginners, while providing challenges for the intermediate and elite climbers. 

I chatted with Lauren Watson, the founder of Ground Up, to learn all about the new gym. I asked Lauren some questions and here are her answers.

J: When do you plan on opening the gym?

L: Assuming all the ducks line up right, we are looking at fall 2015. So soon! 

J: What programs might you offer for beginners or people wanting to try out climbing for the first time?

L: The Ground Up Climbing Centre aims to be the hub of the climbing community in Squamish, filling gaps in both education and access. We are going to have programming for children and adults of all ability levels. This means beginner lessons, group parties, membership services, competitive children’s programming, and recreational progression-focused children’s programming and world cup caliber competitions.

The facility will include bouldering, sport climbing, top rope climbing, workspace, training facilities, lounge space, a children’s-specific area, a function room, and some other surprises. We will focus on providing services that meet the needs of both new and experienced climbers and provide easy access climbing that will allow individuals to build on their abilities in a holistic manner. 

J: What are the benefits of learning indoors?

L: Learning to climb indoors involves less perceived risk than climbing outside. 

The largest benefit to learning to climb indoors is that you don’t need the same time commitment as you do for a day of climbing. It also caters to a safer environment, with big, padded floors and staff on duty to monitor your safety, so you can get your skills up and then take them outside.

It is also a lot more affordable to learn to climb indoors, as you don’t need to buy your own ropes or equipment or have a guide. 

Aside from learning indoors, the facility will also provide a motivating and/or social environment in which experienced climbers can train.

J: Anything else you want to mention? 

L: We are pretty excited to get moving on this. I think it is a resource that the Squamish community will really benefit from. I am looking forward to building a strong youth climbing community; we definitely have the potential. This will be something healthy, active and social for all of Squamish to do after 6 p.m., all year long. 

Jamie Finlayson is a rock climber and co-owner of Coastal Mountain Custom Homes. For information about the company, visit, or see his climbing blog at 

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