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Friday
Aug192011

A Review of Grand River Rocks

I just got back from my first time climbing at Grand River Rocks, the new climbing gym in Kitchener-Waterloo.  This is going to be a short review from my first session, I'll post something longer once I get a better sense of the gym over the long term.  Tonight was also their first day open, so I'm not going to judge them entirely on my first experience.  Also, you should know that my regular gym is Climber's Rock in Burlington, however I've also climbed a little at the Guelph Grotto.

Grand River Rocks [GGR] seems good.  It is smaller than Climber's Rock, but the same or maybe bigger than Guelph Grotto (I'm not great at estimating the sizes.  Plus, as I am mostly a boulderer, I paid much more attention to the bouldering that the routes).  The bouldering is much better than at the Grotto.  The boulder walls, which fill the center of the gym, has a lot of angles and interesting shapes.  However as the walls are in the center of the gym, it feels a bit more cramped than Climber's Rock.   I found this especially true on the back side of the bouldering at the inside of the right angle of the L shaped feature.  How significant this is will totally depend on how crowded the gym gets.  It is all top-out bouldering which is nice.  The holds are currently very new and very rough, so expect to lose more skin that usual, I'm sure that will only take a few months to resolve.

Another difference between Climber's Rock and GRR is the the bouldering generally starts at a higher level.  Not that it is all hard, but Climber's Rock sets some easy intro problems for beginners.  We found that the lowest grade problem on the bouldering wall was definitely harder that the lowest grade at Climber's Rock.

The problems were generally interesting.  They seem to like low, sit down starts, which was ok for me, but caused some issues for some of my climbling companions.  I've been told that Climber's Rock sets some what easier that other gyms, however I was occasionally surprised at the choice of holds for some of the easier problems at GGR.  For example there was a "yellow" problem, which is their second easiest grade that was almost all two finger pockets.  That seemed a bit harsh for a relatively easy grade.

The route walls looked interesting, although I did not do any routes, so I'll save my opinion until later.  There was space for more routes, and it appears as though they did not have too many problems set that were sub 5.10, (which is what some of my friends are climbing).

I have a few constructive criticism for the GGR crew.  The tape colours for the bouldering problems are occasionally hard to differentiate.  Especially the orange/red and green/brown/black.  I would suggest getting brighter coloured tape as that would really help make them more distinguishable.  I also think this might make it easier to use ink on the tape to distinguish the holds for problems different problems of the same colour.  The floor had extra padding around the bouldering wall, however there were only two gym pads and one crash pad.  I really think they should have more pads.  Hopefully they are on order and simply have not arrived yet (the official grand opening is not until Sept 10).  The other thing that I would really like to know is if they are going to have a regular schedule for resetting the problems and routes.  At Climber's Rock they try to reset on section of the bouldering wall and a number of the routes each week.  This way you know when new problems will set.  I find this a really nice, and I hope GGR comes up with similar schedule (and posts it).  Regularly setting new problems is probably the biggest factor in deciding if I will buy a membership (note: I probably will).

In summary GGR seems to have most of the right pieces for it be a good local gym, the big question is how good their problems are going to be and how regularly they set new ones.  This is especially important as they don't have tons of bouldering, so it may not take too long to do all the problems at your level, and then be stuck with nothing to do.