You can feel it the minute you walk in the door of the new Spirit Rock Climbing Centre in Kimberley — an excitement, a buzz that says something is happening here.
That positive energy has carried Spirit Rock through a great opening month, and it appears that it is going to continue.
Owners Ryan and Verena Tarves and Kevin Evinblades say the centre has been busy since it opened December 7, with climbers of all levels, from all over the East Kootenay and beyond, coming to check it out.
“It’s been flat out since then,” Ryan said, “We’ve had clientele from all over the area, tremendous numbers from Cranbrook. And over the holidays we had lots of visitors from the ski hill dropping in.”
There is one other partner in the venture, Jim Gray, who is not actively involved in day-to-day running of the centre. He will, however, be taking advantage of the best view in Kimberley when he and his wife move into the apartment on top of Spirit Rock.
The first thing you notice once inside the climbing centre is that it is even bigger than it looks. There are brightly coloured climbing walls on three different levels — one beginning in the basement (or the pit as they call it) and rising to top, allowing room to provide a chimney and overhang to simulate a natural climb.
There is a bouldering area upstairs, which you climb without ropes, protected by 16-inch thick floor mats.
“It’s top-out bouldering, which is a newer idea,” Ryan said. “You get to the top of the wall and jump over the edge to a deck, so you don’t have to jump off.”
Spirit Rock also has a new auto-belay as well as all the other required climbing gear.
“It really is state of the art,” Kevin said. “We went to trade shows to see all the new ideas.”
Indoor climbing is a different sport than outdoor, although the skills are obviously transferrable.
The owners say they are seeing climbers of all abilities, the biggest proportion being beginners.
“We are seeing lots of school groups,” Ryan said. “And we have after school programs, learn to climb classes for both youth and adults. But we are also busy with experienced climbers.
“It’s gratifying to watch people push themselves.”
“It’s such a positive atmosphere,” Kevin said. “People coach each other and help each other problem solve. People walk out of here tired, but with big grins.”
If you walk in off the street, staff will quickly assess your ability.
“We want it to be fun but we really push safety. We can teach someone the basics within half an hour. If you have previous experience, there is a free test, just so we can make sure you can tie a knot, do basic belaying. We want you to have fun.”
Verena, Ryan and Kevin have all been climbing for years and follow the standard teaching protocol of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
There are other instructors as well, all of them local climbers.
“We have two high school kids working part-time. They came in and their enthusiasm was so awesome, we wanted to bring them on.”
The Spirit Rock Climbing Centre is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekend and noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays.