Bouldering Gym to Climb Into Dogpatch
Following the success of Mission Cliffs, “Dogpatch Boulders,” a new indoor climbing gym, is set to open January 2013 in the American Industrial Center, at 2573 Third Street. According to Lauryn Claassen — spokeswoman for Touchstone Climbers Incorporated, which owns both facilities, as well as a slew of other centers throughout the state — Dogpatch Boulders will feature a 17,400-square-foot “bouldering-only” gym, one of the largest bouldering facilities in the country.
Mission Cliffs, which owners Mark and Debra Melvin opened in 1995 on Harrison Street, maintains a small bouldering section beneath the massive walls on which climbers belay toward the warehouse ceiling. Bouldering, which entails climbing without a rope on short boulders or imitation rocks, and falling onto a crash pad after a climb, is hard to find in San Francisco. Planet Granite, in the Presidio, is the City’s only other bouldering-dedicated facility. Claassen pointed-out that bouldering doesn’t require the massive space of indoor climbing, making it easier to open a facility. Bouldering has been “popping up more in the past five years. Bouldering truly wasn’t a thing when Mission Cliffs opened,” she said.
According to Potrero Hill resident Erin Neff, trekking to Crissy Field to go to the only current bouldering gym is no easy feat for climbers on San Francisco’s Southside. Neff, an opera singer and classical musician, has been climbing for 20 years, and has been going to Mission Cliffs for 16 of those years. “It’s really hardcore,” Neff said about an indoor — and occasional outdoor — climb. She sees this form of exercise as a healthy activity that requires oft overlooked mental strength.
Neff, who has lived on Utah Street for eight years, said bouldering is part of a supportive climbing community filled with people of all ages and backgrounds. Spotters are available to monitor climbs with short routes and no ropes as boulderers work on “problems” and eventually let go and fall onto a crash pad. A few years ago, Neff noticed many Mission Cliffs members heading to Planet Granite for bouldering because the Harrison Street facility was small and there was “a lot to be desired in that part of the gym.”
With her $70 a month Touchstone membership Neff can go to any company-owned gym. The climbing aficionado is eager to try out the Dogpatch facility once it opens. “Climbing is an extremely addictive sport,” she said, noting that the new location will be in a flat area, accessible to freeway commuters and bicyclists. Neff said that many Hill residents climb; introduction of a climbing spot in the neighborhood will serve to increase the family-friendly, close-knit community she experiences when she stops by the gym, which she does four to five times a week for spinning, yoga, and, of course, climbing.
The Dogpatch gym will have 17-foot highballs, much higher than the average 10 feet or so bouldering “problems;” 12-foot top-out boulders, which will allow the climber to swing onto the top of the structure; and 13,000-square feet just for bouldering. The company also promises a kids’ structure with a castle design. “Kids are a big part of our gym,” Claassen said, indicating that the facility will offer after-school and camp programs and services for families. Bouldering lends itself well to the younger crowd who may find the ropeless challenge easier to negotiate. “Bouldering is something kids are interested in,” Claassen said.
With the announcement of the new Dogpatch bouldering annex, changes to Mission Cliffs “will be in layers,” Claassen said. Plans for a new yoga studio and completely new entrance at the facility will take longer with the opening of the bouldering gym. More immediately, rope routes will be revamped, adjustable cracks repaired, and an automated climbing terrain machine and enhanced fitness area may be added.
Mark and Debra Melvin built Mission Cliff’s climbing walls themselves — something they take pride in — and constantly monitor the walls for needed repairs and enhancements. Development of the walls at Dogpatch Boulders will be outsourced, with the selected company designing the bouldering walls and determining other aesthetics, including color schemes and layout. Touchstone will construct the front desk area, locker rooms and bike parking.
The Dogpatch space — which is being considered as an off-site extension of Mission Cliffs — will join a slew of Touchstone climbing facilities throughout the state, including Berkeley Ironworks, Sacramento Pipeworks, Diablo Rock in Concord, Great Western Power Co. in Oakland, Metalmark in Fresno, and the Studio in San Jose. The San Jose location is the newest gym, and opened in spring 2012.
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