They come in pairs and alone, with chalk on their hands and rubbery shoes on their feet. The Colorado College climbing community is notoriously active, as pointed out in the October issue of Outside magazine. Now that the new Ritt Kellogg climbing gym is open, climbers can be found heel-hooking and crimping their way up and around the wall.
CC’s new gym is a huge upgrade from the old gym, which constituted of just one wall and a bouldering cave. The old gym offered mostly bouldering due to size constraints, while this new gym has room for sport climbing. The new gym is roughly three times larger than the old, and according to one climbing aficionado, “exponentially more legit.”
Climbers are now presented with two bouldering caves, three cracks, as well as several top-roping and lead-climbing options. The new gym has much more space, variety, slabs, and corners, according to junior Sam Williams.
“There are many more possibilities, even if they’re not all utilized yet,” Williams said. As Williams talked, his eyes followed his partner, who was bouldering just a few feet away. Between questions, he called out encouragement and tips to his friend. The teamwork and trust involved in climbing creates a close bond between a climber and his belayer or spotter, and groups often gather to cheer on a friend struggling with a tough move.
With names like “Coordination Failure,” “The Pendulum,” and “Gravitropism,” the routes are described as “very puzzle-y” by a competitive CC climber. “I go to the gym to get stronger so I can eventually crush outdoors. It’s nice that the gym is so versatile with the slabby side and the boulder caves. The routes definitely reflect the creativeness of the setters. All of them are super mindboggling. I wish some of the routes were less reachy.” Although she is excited about the new gym and being able to train here, she also mentioned that some strength-oriented routes would be nice to see, and expressed interest in route-setting.
The Ritt Kellogg gym-goers are not just competitive climbers. Freshman Sergio Portesan just started climbing here at CC. “I go to the gym to have fun and challenge myself. It’s great because I can have fun while getting fit,” Portesan said. Although many of the routes seem daunting to new climbers, the numerous bouldering options utilize the space well and allow for plenty of easier routes.
When interviewed, several climbers said that the “puzzle-y” routes were fun, but the addition of some strength routes would be welcomed. Nonetheless, the consensus is that the routes are fun and challenging. Climber and CC freshman Will Cohn said, “There’s this really fun boulder problem…marked with yellow tape. I like it a lot because the proper sequence is key when trying to complete the route and if you don’t do it properly it becomes much harder!”
For those climbers who did not get a free CityRock membership while the CC gym was in progress, one of the biggest perks of the new gym is the free access for CC students. With just a swipe of a gold card, CC students are given access to shoes, harnesses, belay devices, rope, and classes. These classes range from strength workouts to introductory courses in belaying or lead climbing. The gym is open from 4 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and Sunday, 6 to 10 p.m.
Climbing gym monitor and sophomore Ryan Guerra is mostly in charge of checking out gear and checking in students. Two monitors switch off between the desk and the floor. The monitor on the floor is in charge of orienting new climbers, giving safety checks, and answering questions on technique or training. Guerra said, “[Climbing gym monitors] are a good bridge between the devout climbers and less experienced ones.” He added that, as part of the massive improvements in sizing from the old gym, safety has improved. With additional space, it is easier for the monitors to check safety and keep an eye on boulderers. The capacity, according to Guerra, has doubled from 20 to 40 climbers.
Slightly intimidating for the newcomer, the gym is full of swirling chalk and vibrates with music. Aside from shouting encouragement, climbers also have their own repertoire of strange and scary noises. Some grunt while swinging to the next hold, others scream when they miss a “dyno.” Many profess the belief that yelling helps climbing. However, more timid climbers shouldn’t be deterred by the cries erupting from the Ritt Kellogg gym. CC climbers are helpful and non-judgmental; they accept silent climbers as well as those brand new to the sport.