Hands covered in chalk. Trusting someone else with your life. Looking down from high, high up as you hang by nothing but one hand.
That may sound scary to some. To a climber it’s just another thrilling day, and now there’s a new spot in Englewood to take it to the next level.
The nation’s largest climbing facility opened there on Friday, the second location in Colorado from founder and popular alpinist Chris Warner. Earth Treks also has locations in Golden, as well as in Maryland, Virginia, California and Oregon — but none of those are a massive 53,000 square feet.
The facility at W. Hampden Avenue has walls lined floor-to-ceiling with colorful rock formations — about 500 routes to keep you busy with crack climbs, overhangs and a separate bouldering area with varying levels of difficulty. (Four full-time route-setters will continuously change route sets.)
“Lots of my friends from the climbing community were all there for the opening event,” said Stephanie Miller of Denver, a climber of more than 10 years who attended a soft opening Thursday night. “Really, it attracted a lot of climbers from the entire community.”
Miller said she’s attracted to climbing because of its physicality and the mental focus required. “It’s the closest thing to medication you can get being physically active,” she said.
The vibrant atmosphere is lit by bright overhead lights mixed with natural light from skylights. The walls pop with swirls of bright blue and orange sprinkled with pink, green and purple.
“What people aren’t looking for is a dingy gym,” said Tori Barnett, Earth Treks marketing director. “They want a very inspiring experience, whether they are doing yoga or climbing or running on the treadmill.”
The gym is located in what used to be the corporate headquarters of Sports Authority and is nearly double the size of the gym in Golden, which opened in 2013. Construction crews raised the roof over about half of the building to accommodate climbing walls that rise 55 feet. Routes on overhanging walls reach 65 feet in length.
Earth Treks joins a saturated area of gyms along the Front Range that include popular Movement Climbing + Fitness, with locations in Boulder as well as Denver’s Baker and River North neighborhoods, and ROCK’n & JAM’n Climbing Gyms in Thornton and Centennial.
Plus, you know, all those places to go climbing outside.
So how does one find the climbing gym for you?
Miller said to look at pricing, the routes available, the crowds, addition options like yoga, and just the general feel from the climber and their climbing partner. (Disclosure: Miller’s climbing partner is Denver Post staff photographer Helen Richardson.)
Beyond climbing, the new Earth Treks offers a workout facility, yoga classes, Wifi and child care, the latter of which Miller said is likely to be attractive to young parents.
According to the website, a day pass to the gym is $22 and a rental package with shoes, a harness and chalk will add $11 to your fees. Monthly membership rates then range from $79 per month for an individual to $890 for a full pre-paid individual. Membership benefits include the climbing, yoga, clinics and free guest passes. Memberships are good at both Colorado Earth Treks locations, as well as the locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Ore., Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Soon, there will be locations in Chicago as well.
Advice for first-time climbers
Miller said every gym creates ways to introduce people who have never climbed to the sport, including beginner classes. Because the sport is potentially dangerous, Miller said many gyms, including Earth Treks, put a lot of resources toward teaching people safety.
Ready to give it a go?
Before buying brand new equipment, Miller recommended renting from a gym to make sure you like the sport. Places like REI sell beginner packages of equipment if you discover a new passion for climbing.
Earth Treks Englewood: 1050 West Hampden Ave. (It’s actually two blocks south of Hampden); 303-242-3555; earthtreksclimbing.com.
The gym is hosting a grand opening party Sat., Sept. 22, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. that includes free climbing, food, drinks and entertainment.