Friday, July 19, 2013

Bellingham Gets a Gym - Introducing Vital

For years rumors of a climbing gym coming to Bellingham have been floating around. We have all been grateful for the YMCA and it's really tall, really steep wall for training. However, as the staff there will tell you, they are not a climbing gym.

If one were to characterize Bellingham, climbing town would certainly be part of that characterization. That said, a climbing town averaging 36 inches of rain, and 168 rainy days per year definitely requires a gym for training. With an ear to the rumor mill the feeling for the last couple years has been almost one of desperation. The news of a new gym brought smiles to many of our faces.

When the day came for Vital to open, climbers were coming out of the woodwork. On a sunny Saturday in July when any climber would normally be out taking advantage of the weather window, I was questioning how many folks would actually show up. Surprisingly, there were easily a couple hundred people that came through. It was a great turnout! Not only are the locals absolutely stoked for the new facility, Vital did an excellent job promoting the event to make for a great day; and the excitement was palpable.

Vital invited AAI along with numerous other sponsors to be present at the event. We had our stand on the sidewalk out front and saw lots of familiar faces and just as many new faces. We had a great time chatting with our climbing community and making connections.

The gym itself is amazing. The design is modern, sleek, and functional. When you walk in the landing area feels like a college lounge area. There are couches, a counter along the street side window, a kitchenette and an island with stools for sitting. There's a bookshelf that is stocked with books and games, a coffee and tea maker, as well as a dorm fridge. This lounge area overlooks the lower climbing area.

The climbing space is pretty much a horseshoe shape with an island wall. There is generally a good mix of routes on most of the walls, the cave routes, however, do look pretty vicious. I'm not the most experienced gym climber but I would say the route setting is excellent. In the short time I was climbing I was quickly able to discern what color matched my ability level and when I picked routes in that range I had about a 60% success rate. So I had projects in that range and some of the easier routes in the next color range I could begin to work on. Also, for any given route all the holds will be the same color. This made routes a little easier to follow than I've experienced at some other gyms. Hopefully Vital will maintain this standard.

The cushioning is good and I generally felt safe falling, however, near the top of some of the larger walls I was definitely a little intimidated to jump down when I finished. That said, had I fallen I doubt if I would have gotten hurt, but my aging beat up body might have let me know not to do that again.

All in all I think Bellingham climbers are in a frenzy over the new gym. I can't wait to get back in there and if you're in the area I would definitely check it out. The prices are super reasonable and if you're a member you can climb there 24/7. Talk about working with anyone's schedule?

Thanks Vital for a great event and welcome to Bellingham.

--Tim Page, Program Coordinator

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