The Stronghold Climbing Gym
Walk into Stronghold Climbing Gym, and you may be in awe of the scene. What looks like colorful dots line the faux stone walls that span the space. Climbers are dispersed throughout, bouldering, sport climbing, top roping, and lead climbing — each of these involving a different set-up, ranging from 28 to 45 feet tall. Although slightly intimidating upon entrance, the gym is far from it. The staff greets you with a smile and is ready to get you started. Climbers may appear to be experts, but don’t be fooled, all levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Considered this a sport more than it is a workout, rock climbing is based on technique rather than strength.
Owners Kate Mullen and Peter Steadman wanted a place that was perfectly suited for climbing and chose the 100 year old former California Edison Company’s #3 Steam Power Plant. Only a few minutes away from the bustling financial district, Stronghold is a great temporary escape from the city. It’s nestled within Lincoln Heights in the 23-acre Brewery Arts Complex, an artist community housed in the historic Pabst Brewing facility.
The gym commits to being community driven. It helps that members are naturally team-oriented. “Someone will see someone else struggling, and they’ll help each other out. A lot of times, I’ll see as many as 5 people working on a boulder problem or rope route together,” says staff member Kyle McCoy. Each route is a certain level and is represented by its own colored stones to help guide your every grip. If you’ve never climbed before, the experience is just as riveting as it is scary. About midway up, the colored stones may get a little further apart, forcing you to think more about your hand and foot placement as you ascend upwards. It’s important to make use of the chalk belted at your waist to avoid any sweaty-palm-syndrome. After pushing your foot off that last colored stone, you climb over the wall to safety, and the feeling of the horizontal ground below you is relieving. As you gaze down at the boulder you just climbed, it’s impossible not to give yourself a rewarding pat on the back.
Although it’s only two years old, the gym has gained a rapidly growing following. Members feel like it’s their second home, staying anywhere from two to five hours. And because it requires a lot of mental concentration, the gym complements the sport by offering yoga classes just upstairs. “After climbing, a lot of us will go over to Barbara’s for food and drinks,” says McCoy about the nearby bar, also located in the same complex. Sometimes the two neighbors will hold a “Yoga & Beer” event, where members enjoy a beer after a rigorous session.
At an affordable $79/month, Stronghold offers more than your typical workout. Along with unlimited rock climbing and yoga, it also has a full gym should you want to change things up with a more standard fitness session. What more could you ask for?
Written by Janet Sung
Photographed by Jack Strutz