Summit Climbing Gym celebrates 3 years as the only co-op climbing gym in the Central Rockies |

Summit Climbing Gym celebrates 3 years as the only co-op climbing gym in the Central Rockies

Phil Lindeman

Reel Rock 11 premiere

What: Local premiere of “Reel Rock 11,” a globetrotting rock-climbing film, to celebrate the third anniversary of the member-run Summit Climbing Gym

When: Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.

Where: Summit Climbing Gym, 1291 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne (behind Murdoch’s and the new Habitat for Humanity Restore)

Cost: $15 presale, $20 at the door

Entry fee buys beer, pizza, the premiere and a raffle ticket for swag and prizes, including gym memberships, climbing gear and more. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the film begins at 8 p.m. All proceeds go to the gym, the only member-run indoor climbing gym in Summit County. To purchase tickets, drop by Wilderness Sports in Dillon or go online to


Climb all winter

Looking for a place to climb when local walls ice over? The Summit Climbing Gym (SCG), near Murdoch’s in Silverthorne, is the only nonprofit climbing gym in Summit County. SCG is a member’s only, member-run facility that operates as a co-op, with one-month solo memberships starting at $70, six-month memberships starting at $400 and annual memberships starting at $700 (plus a one-time initiation fee of $50). There’s also a 10-punch pass for $150, plus family memberships and one-time guest passes. To join or find out more, visit

Editor’s note: For more images from the Summit Climbing Gym, follow @sumcosports on Instagram or visit the sports section at

Nathan Post wasn’t buying the V6 rating.

“I usually can’t get a V6 on rock right away,” the 39-year-old co-owner of Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters said to another member at the Summit Climbing Gym, 24-year-old Eric Knapp. “That’s why I think it’s more of a V5.”

Knapp looked at him with raised eyebrows. On a mellow Tuesday night in late October — usually one of the busiest nights of the week at the member-run co-op in northern Silverthorne — the two were studying a bouldering route in the far back corner of the sprawling rock-wall wonderland, the only gym of its kind in Summit County. The route was less than two weeks old, just like nearly a dozen other bouldering and rope-climbing routes strewn across the walls, and Knapp had been working on the bouldering problem for 10 or 15 minutes. That’s when Post stepped up to the wall and eyed the screw-in holds. He’d made quick work of the problem earlier that night — it took him all of 20 seconds to whiz through the eight or nine moves on a spiny overhang — but Knapp and a small crew of other gym members were still struggling with the final move: a long reach from a rounded (and slippery) hold just below the top, with hardly anywhere to hook a foot for stability.

“Did you start from a sit?” Knapp asked. Post shook his head.

“No, I was standing, but I’m just thinking that a natural V6 is something I have to work at,” Post said. “I got this one pretty quick, you know? So it feels like V5.”

Post stepped back and Knapp stepped up for another try. He still looked doubtful, but ever since joining the gym in June, the former Washington, D.C., resident has come to know and trust longtime members like Post.

“I love the fact that it’s a good place to train,” Knapp said before retrying the problem a third or fourth time. “The community is awesome. They want to actually climb outside and I’ve met so many cool people through this.”

‘Reel Rock’ birthday bash

It’s a story as old as Summit Climbing Gym, or at least as old as the faux-spire and 30-foot walls found inside. Post started climbing at the warehouse soon after it opened as Red Mountain Rock Gym in 2002, a for-profit venture launched by Mike and Janet Wolfson. He stuck with it for a little while when it changed names to Chiseled Fitness in 2011, and then he returned once again when Mike Wolfson and a board of directors tried a new concept in 2013: a nonprofit indoor climbing mecca, with volunteer staff, low membership fees and a laid-back vibe. The walls, holds and gym equipment were already there — it even came with the Treadwall, like a vertical treadmill for endless climbing — so all the new gym needed was a community to keep it afloat.

“Not only is this open again, it’s thriving,” Post said between Knapp’s attempts. “The co-op setup is working fantastic. … I’m obsessed with climbing, so as soon as it starts getting dark early, this is great. Not only do you get the awesome training and climbing, you also get the social side.”

On Tuesday, Summit Climbing Gym celebrates its third birthday in style with the local premiere of “Reel Rock 11,” the latest batch of rock-climbing porn from The North Face with pros like Kai Lightner and locations like Flatanger Cave in Norway.

It’s a fitting celebration for a gym that’s come to represent everything fun and funky about Summit’s small but dedicated climbing scene. Not only is it the sole climbing-only gym in Summit — it’s the sole gym of its kind between Denver and Grand Junction.

“The climbing community in Summit isn’t that big,” said Wolfson, who spends his summers working at Wilderness Sports in Dillon and winters coaching for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. “We’re not known as a climbing destination, but this is a way to bring people together. … The vibe in here is a lot like it was when we opened. It’s not just for climbing. It’s become a hub for the climbing community in the area.”

The gym is home to just about everything climbers need during the long, cold, frozen winter months in Summit. There’s the Treadwall and other weighted machines, plus a few free weights and mats for stretching. The main climbing walls are home to routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.13, with 16 top-ropes, two self-belay machines and cams for lead climbing. The bouldering area ranges from V0 to V7, and, like the roped routes, there are close to 100, all set and reset by members every two months.

“I like the fact you can come in here, put on your own music, and everything is so clean,” Knapp said. “There’s that sense of stewardship, and when you have that connection to a place, it makes it better.”

Climb on

A few steps from the bouldering area were two 24-year-olds, Claudia Hernandez of Silverthorne and Laurin Smith of Keystone. Like the guys on the V6, the women stop by the gym three or four times per week in winter and whenever they can during the summer. They were getting ready to climb a top-rope route next to a built-in crag, with Hernandez on the wall and Smith on the belay, when a steady stream of members set up camp on the sagging couches spread across the floor.

“It’s never the same here,” Hernandez said before climbing. “They rotate the walls quite often, and the fact we can boulder and then top-rope is great.”

Variety and community are helping the gym to quietly gain momentum. It boasts more than 130 members — and counting — and yet it still feels like a well-kept secret to Smith.

“Most people don’t even know about it,” Smith said. “I have friends who are climbers back home, and when I tell them about this they’re blown away.”

Hernandez began climbing up the flat face — flying up is more like it — while Knapp gave the V6 another try. After picking through the tricky final move, he reached up and over the top, pulling himself around the overhang to finally bag the problem. Post smiled and nodded.

“We’re all setting routes and trying them, and it’s fun to work each other’s problems, make fun of them or whatever,” Post said. “It’s killer. It would be a total bummer if this closed.”

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