You’ve probably heard of Boulder, epicenter of the US climbing scene, as well as Movement, The Spot, CATS, and the Boulder Rock Club. All four gyms are located within a very small area, yet they thrive. We actually haven’t been to any of them yet.
Travel north along the Front Range and you’ll come to Fort Collins. There is a climbing community here, but not quite so big as in Boulder. There are three climbing gyms: Inner Strength, Miramont, and the CSU climbing wall. We haven’t been to the last one, but the other two are quite frequently visited. I know, I know…we left on an epic roadtrip and now we’re pulling plastic? To be honest, it’s a lot cheaper than the $50 in gas it takes to get to RMNP. So here’s a quick comparison of the two indoor crags we’ve been to in FoCo.
Inner Strength was opened 18 years ago by Mike Hickey, and features topropes, lead walls, and two bouldering areas. Overall it’s a fairly small space, but it does have a fairly steep lead cave. I’ve been volunteer-setting the bouldering there for most of the summer, and have met some awesome people there. It’s also quite close to home, which makes it a convenient stop-off for a quick burn.
The cons: there are no, I repeat, no supplemental equipment to train on, except for hangboards. No weights, pullup bars, bands, or even a stretching area. Also, they have one of those featured walls that is supposed to mimic real rock. I don’t like these, personally. They are difficult to set as there are fewer T-nuts, and forcing movement is difficult due to there being footholds everywhere.
Inner Strength is a great place to go as a beginner. The vibe is very communal and relaxed, though that also means that you won’t find any testpiece routes.
Our favorite is plastic palace is Miramont, a corporate fitness company with four locations (but only one with a climbing gym). The first impression you get is of a clean, large space with every piece of equipment imaginable. There’s a full gym with all sorts of machines and free weights, an upstairs with cardio and stretching apparatuses, and a full compliment of bands, kettle bells..the works. There was a full basketball court, recently halved to make space for a no-nonsense training area (rubber floors, gymnastic rings, olympic lifting, etc).
The climbing walls are striking. I can’t vouch for the lead walls since I haven’t climbed on ’em, but the bouldering is fantastic. The first thing you see is a giant wave wall (photos below). Then there is a 360° boulder, connected to a steep cave by a long roof. The setting is quite fun and often very technical, graded Rec, Intermediate, Advanced, and Open (they often host competitions).
I was psyched to find out that it’s managed by an old friend of mine, Paul Dusatko. I’ve known Paul since back in the day when we both lived in Santa Barbara. I appreciated his flick Soul Cal for being the first to put SB bouldering in a legit film. I sat down with Paul to ask him a few questions about the facility he’s been running.
Paul’s been part of the climbing scene for 22 years, beginning in Southern California as a trad-head under the tutelage of some of the original Stone Masters. Eventually he got hooked on bouldering, with several double-digit sends under his belt. He’s been in Fort Collins for over three years, and started at Miramont as head route-setter. He is now the Climbing Wall Manager as well as head setter.
What I’m most impressed with is that Paul has successfully navigated the corporate world on behalf of and to the benefit of the rest of the climbing community. Most climbers want sick huge walls and hardcore training grounds, but also want to be all dirtbaggy and counter-culture-y. Paul is that link. The first major change was to add the wave wall, a long bouldering feature that starts as a mellow slab and smoothly transitions to a huge, steep prow. It looks like a breaking wave (a vestige, I’m sure, of Paul’s upbringing around the surf culture of southern Cali). With every angle and no abrupt corners, the wave wall is a setter’s (and climber’s) dream.
The wave wall is one of Paul’s (and my) favorite aspects of the gym, the other being the recent addition of a Moon board. The Moon board is one of the coolest pieces of training equipment going, because it’s standardized, yet unlike a systems wall or campus board, it involves infinite possibilities for movement. There’s a binder there as well, with some of the original Moon problems marked out.
Paul describes the vibe as strong but relaxed. In other words, even though a lot of very strong people climb there, it’s still a place where beginners can hang out, make friends, try hard, and not feel too intimidated. So far, that’s been our experience there too. He also describes Miramont as an alternative to the Boulder scene, which is, for better or for worse, much more crowded with climbers.
All in all, I’m very impressed with the facilities at Miramont. Along with Earth Treks, it ranks as one of the best gyms we’ve seen across the US, although I have to give a shout-out to Touchstone and Planet Granite for also having awesome facilities, even though they’re back home. If you’re coming to the Front Range, hit us up…we’ll be happy to give you a tour of the inside OR outside climbing!