In the grips of a ‘bouldering’ boom: Two new facilities set to open in region

Altitude gym

There’s a new sport in town and its popularity is climbing quickly.

“Bouldering” is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. While rock climbing, also known as rope climbing, is done with a rope and protective gear, bouldering only requires climbing shoes and the use of a crash pad.

Adrian Das is technical director at Altitude Gym and part of the 11-person Altitude ownership group, which includes founder Patrick Lamothe and general director Nancy Asselin.

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“There’s something about bouldering visually that really attracts people,” Das says. “It’s spectacular, it’s fast. It’s also a community sport. It’s something that people can do together without a lot of equipment and each person can be working on their own challenge next to each other.”

Altitude is set to open a 15,000-square-foot climbing gym and fitness centre on Centrum Boulevard in Orléans Feb. 1. Das says the new facility will be exclusively for bouldering. 

“We definitely saw an opportunity and a need for a modern bouldering facility in the Orléans part of town,” he says.

Altitude’s Gatineau facility, which opened in 2010, boasts some of the highest indoor roped climbs in the region at 45 feet, while its 35,000-square-foot Kanata location, which opened in 2017, may be the largest bouldering facility in Canada. 

“I’ve been in this industry, in the sport, for over 20 years and in the last 10 years the explosion of bouldering has just been incredible,” Das says. “You keep wondering, is it going to slow down? Is it going to change, is it going to keep trending, is it going to crash? But it’s not. It just keeps growing.” 

  • Altitude 1
    Altitude 1
  • Altitude 2
    Altitude 2

Most new climbing gyms to open in North America in 2021 were exclusively bouldering gyms (63 per cent), a ratio that is likely higher in Canada. Interest in climbing has been on the rise for two decades, but the debut of sport climbing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and popular documentaries like Free Solo and The Dawn Wall have given it a boost in recent years. 

Altitude Gym isn’t the only business in the region betting on the growth in bouldering. There is also a new 10,000-square-foot Bloc 9.81 climbing facility set to open soon in Gatineau. 

“Opening a climbing gym was a plan eventually. I didn’t know it was coming that soon, but it did and now I embrace it,” says Aggy St-Jacques, who has been climbing since the age of 10 and has competed internationally. 

St-Jacques is one of four Bloc 9.81 co-owners, including her father, Daniel St-Jacques. “The community of climbers has grown so much in the Gatineau area and we wanted to offer something more for the climbers,” she says.

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