Chick Holtkamp first discovered rock climbing in 1972 while attending Colgate University in central New York. Once he started, he never stopped.
“Very few people were climbers back then,” Holtkamp recalls. “So many people are climbing right now.”
Holtkamp regularly enjoys outdoor climbing in picturesque locations around Utah and Yosemite National Park. Locally he's has been known to climb the Superior Viaduct, the Hope Memorial Bridge and the Main Avenue Bridge. Add it all up and Holtkamp has established a reputation for himself as an accomplished climber around the country.
Now Holtkamp has opted to get a foothold on the indoor climbing trend with the opening of Climb Cleveland
a little more than a month ago in Tremont.
He has attempted to open two indoor climbing gyms in Cleveland in the past — at the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist
and at Zion United Church of Christ
. Both projects fell through, but his third attempt rose to success. The facility is housed in 7,000 square feet of space in a three-story building he owns at 2190 Professor Ave.
“I bought the building in 1982, well before anyone was interested in Tremont,” Holtkamp says. “I bought it because I wanted to live on the top floor. But the space is really good for Climb Cleveland and it’s a great location. I’m happy where I am now.”
The climbing gym includes three levels, the basement and the first two floors in the corner of the building, all adjoined with a central staircase.
Climb Cleveland features a bouldering wall spanning 7,000 feet. The height does not go above 12 feet and there are no ropes involved in bouldering, says Holtkamp. The holds are color-coded to mark climbs in varying degrees of difficulty. Pads line the floor for a safe landing in case of a fall.
An interconnected endurance and traversing wall in the basement allows climbers to climb side-to-side routes, as opposed to up-and-down, for more than 200 feet and features authentic rock holds from around the country. Holtkamp explains this wall not only builds endurance, but allows climbers to get creative in their routes and to build their skills.
Clips, ropes and a stopwatch are provided on the endurance and traversing wall to practice lead climbing and speed.
Climb Cleveland also offers crack climbing — wherein the climber follows a specific crack in a rock. The skill requires specific techniques and is geared toward more experienced climbers — the facility even boasts a roof crack. Holtkam notes crack climbing takes a lot of practice to develop.
“Indoor climbing has become a realm of its own,” says Holtkamp. “Indoors is safer, but the movements are similar, so you can develop your skills.”
For those looking for a more mellow experience, Climb Cleveland also offers Ashtanga yoga
in a 1,200-square-foot studio with trained instructors. The space is open for three-hour blocks in the mornings and evenings so practitioners can enjoy a flexible schedule.
“Ashtanga is another expanding practice, where it gives you ownership of your own practice,” explains Holtkamp. “Some classes are regular classes, but other aspects of Ashtanga let you show up when you’re ready.”
The facility also accomodates blues dancing. Classes are held on Wednesday evenings in the space shared by the yoga classes and build on mobility, confidence and partner communication.
“It’s another developing practice,” says Holtkamp. “People are used to salsa and swing dancing, but blues dancing is another form of partner dancing.”
Unlike salsa and swing, where the leader leads the dance, blues dancing involves both partners working together. “In blues dancing, the leader and follower are in constant communication about what to do next,” Holtkamp explains. “And so it evolves.”
Holtkamp stresses that all three practice areas at Climb Cleveland — bouldering, yoga and dancing — are really about building relationships.
“Community is a large part within all of these practices — you need other people’s help to succeed,” he says, adding that many people become friends while working out. “In each of these areas I’ve provided space and support, but people bring their lifetime skills there. Climbing, especially in the environment we’ve created, is 90 percent social and 10 percent trying hard.”
While millennials are Climb Cleveland’s primary customers, Holtkamp says, people of every age can benefit. “It’s for all ages,” he says. “We have little kids here as young as four-years-old, and then we have people here climbing who are well into their 60s and 70s.”
And, Holtkamp adds, Tremont is the perfect place to work out and build on that sense of community. “It’s a great location,” he says. “People come here, climb, dance, do yoga, and then they go out to a local restaurant.”
Climb Cleveland offers day passes for $14, or memberships for $60 per month. Shoe rentals are $4.