On the exterior wall, six women dive with pointed toes and arched backs; their colored suits strongly contrast the grey cement wall. The entrance is covered by a large sliding door secured by a padlock which only members know the code of. To the right, a concrete post offers a cement fist pump to the sky and the awe-inspiring Stawamus Chief which stands tall and proud in view. When the sliding door is lifted, double glass doors reveal more of what can be called a forgotten culture.
Words: Thomasina Pidgeon
Many of Squamish, BC’s strongest climbers have trained at the Grandwall Bouldering Cooperative for years and continue to do so. But despite its reputation as being exclusive to the local hardman, things have changed. Beginners are finding this place as a fun oasis; the wide variety of holds and angled walls make it easy to pick and choose the difficulty of climbs.
Against the darkness seeping from the background, wooden walls of various angles stand out alongside the many colored holds plastering the Coop’s walls. Blue gymnastic flooring covers the length of the room, topped up by two large black mats. In the far back, a proper campus board stands kitty corner to what is one of the most modern training equipments, an LED MoonBoard. In another corner, route setting and training equipment of all sorts lay on the loosely organized shelves. A large cement desk holds the sign in book, alongside member’s daily items such as water bottles, training logs, and random oddities like a donation jar. Below the desk, sits an old stereo which plays the widest variety of music and podcasts depending on who shows up to climb that day.
The Coop has until June 2017 to decide its fate; continue as is with hopefully more members, open in a smaller, cheaper space, or close its doors forever.
The walls and equipment are among the best around. The training environment is on par with the some of the best walls in the world such as the Schoolroom in Sheffield, the Crimpshrine in SLC, the Tivoli Gym in Innsbruck… The addition of routesetting offers everything from V0- to V-hard. Everyone holds a key and can come and go as they wish. It offers choice in music, setting and the freedom to be as social as one wants. As with any cooperative, everyone’s welcome, and that includes introverts, extroverts and every character in between. The Coop, as some would say, is special.
But what about that aforementioned donation jar? Well, as with any place, rent needs paying. The Coop’s member base has dropped significantly due to a commercial climbing gym opening up in town. It’s hard to compete with shiny, colorful new walls that offer routes, bouldering, and milky cappuccinos. Just like the fact that not everyone fits into the mold of the typical commercial climbing gym environment, not everyone feels comfortable in the sometimes-called, dark dungeon of the Grandwall Bouldering Cooperative. Past members complained about the chalky air and characteristic bathrooms; others preferred the option to get high on routes. Many disliked the lack of set problems simply because they want to climb without having to envision up problems.
But as with everything, difficulties inspire ideas for improvement. Things once frowned upon like route-setting are now the norm, enticing those who appreciate a clear line. An old rule of needing two years climbing experience was banished, thus opening the Coop to beginners and children alike. A cleaner was hired, the heating system improved, it opened its doors to dry tooling, and new training equipment such as the campus board and LED Moonboard were installed. In addition, events catered to training for climbing were happening on a regular basis. The one thing the Coop now needs is money; preferably in the form of a solid member base so to continue its charm and quality appeal in a sustainable fashion. So far, membership numbers have slowly increased but more is needed. The Coop has until June 2017 to decide its fate; continue as is with hopefully more members, open in a smaller, cheaper space, or close its doors forever.
As a not-for-profit, the Coop isn’t out to rake in the dough. It has been and remains to be run by dedicated and psyched volunteer climbers who love and appreciate the Coop for what it is. While its original mission was to provide a training environment for climbers to survive the dreary Squamish winters, it has since turned into more than that. Despite the community of climbers having changed throughout the years, one thing is certain, a small but strong community remain, many of whom cannot imagine training anywhere else. Everyone from boulderers, route climbers, to ice climbers continue to use the Coop regularly during the winter and summer for reasons of their own. The Coop clearly fills a niche in the training and climbing facilities of Squamish. What it offers isn’t easily replicable. It’s a quirky little place, filled with character and characters. They say wine betters with age; well to be sure, many Coop members would argue the same about this unique bouldering cooperative.
The Grandwall Bouldering Cooperative is conveniently located on Loggers Lane, Downtown Squamish. To find out more or how to join the Coop visit Climb On Equipment on Second Avenue or visit its website and social media sites:
About the author:
Squamish’s Thomasina Pidgeon is one of Canada’s top climbers. The first Canadian woman to boulder V10, V11 and V12, she has been a National Canadian Team Member since starting competition in 2012 and has climbed in over 13 countries including Norway, the UK and Australia. As a coach and a writer, she has been published in numerous climbing magazines and websites and has great affection for solving physical puzzles found on boulders of various sizes and shapes. http://thomasinapidgeon.com/