Getting vertical is about to get a whole lot better for thrill-seekers in the Spokane area.
Mountain climbing is one of the fastest-growing recreational sports in the U.S., and the Lilac City is home to a structure that hopes to elevate the sport to a new level.
Wild Walls, an indoor climbing gym located in the old Armory building at W202 Second, is officially scheduled to open Saturday. It promises to bring national attention to a city already renowned among athletic circles for its Bloomsday road race and Hoopfest 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
The facility is among approximately 50 major climbing gyms in the U.S., and owners Bill Lockwood and Timon Beehan agree that its design ranks among the top five in the nation.
“One of the really unique things about this structure is that it’s built out in the center of the room,” Lockwood said. “A lot of places build them up against the walls so they’re supported by a building, but this one’s entirely free-standing.”
Wild Walls stands 40 feet tall and features 6,000 square feet of climbing surface. The man-made mountain offers approximately 70 climbing routes and can facilitate as many as 35 climbers at a time.
“It’s made out of 3,200 pounds of steel and about 250 sheets of plywood panels,” Lockwood said. “Those (panels) are all fastened on with about 17,000 carriage bolts. Then, covering the plywood is a wire mesh followed by two layers of trowelled-on rock texturing.”
Threaded holes are scattered throughout the wall to accommodate temporary climbing holds, and certified route-setters will alter climbing paths on a semi-monthly basis in order to keep things fresh for regular users.
Wild Walls will be open to climbers of all experience levels, with special instruction required for all first-time users.
Single-visit passes will sell for $9, and equipment (harness, biner, belay device, shoes) will be available as rentals. The gym will also offer classes ranging from Vertical Movement I to Yoga Stretches for Climbing.
“We’d like to see climbing develop in Spokane and we’d like to increase the safety level of it,” Lockwood said. “Climbing here doesn’t teach you to climb outside, but it certainly does teach general rope handling safety, appropriate (verbal) commands and how to put on your harness. Then if somebody wants to learn to climb outside, we can refer them to the appropriate people.”
In addition to instructing beginning climbers, Wild Walls also has plans to host climbing competitions.
“This fall we want to start with a local event just to get our feet wet,” Lockwood said. “Then next spring we want to host a national competition. The wall was even designed big enough to host international competitions.”
Beehan said the facility also hopes to eventually start a high school climbing league.
“Spokane has a real big climbing community,” Beehan said. “In general, it has a lot of people who are active outdoors. And there’s not a whole lot of other things to do here.”