Chance Meeting Gives Way to New Oregon Gym

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Bouldering walls at Beyond the Wall Climbing gym
Two Hillsboro, Oregon, couples—Marjorie and James Kirby and Mikinna and Stephen Johnson—teamed up to open a new bouldering gym in the area, following a chance meeting two years ago at the 2022 CWA Summit. (All images courtesy of Beyond the Wall Climbing)

Beyond the Wall Climbing
Hillsboro, Oregon

Specs: Beyond the Wall Climbing (BTW) opened west of Portland—in the city of Hillsboro, Oregon—on June 16th this year. Owned by longtime Hillsboro residents Marjorie and James Kirby and Mikinna and Stephen Johnson, the team has “dreamed for years” of putting up a climbing gym right in town. The Kirby’s have been Hillsboro residents for over two decades and are currently raising their four school-aged children in the city. “The couple has persevered through tough market conditions for years to bring this project to market both for their family and other families in the area,” a media package stated. Opening a gym in the area has also been a multi-year goal of the Johnsons, who were born and raised in Hillsboro. “As their passion for climbing solidified more than five years ago, the couple decided that they wanted to pursue opening a climbing gym in the area,” per the announcement.

Capitan software

The Johnsons first started discussing plans for a gym back in 2018. Then in 2022, they attended the CWA Summit in Salt Lake City. Separately, James and Marjorie Kirby had also attended the Summit that year. James spotted the Johnson’s Oregon license plate and offered to take them to lunch. As they got to talking, the two couples found they shared a similar objective. “Because our visions were aligned, we stayed in contact and earned each other’s trust,” said Stephen.

The Kirbys and Johnsons kept the bouldering-focused gym “simple,” Stephen described, with most of the space dedicated to climbing terrain. In the 10,000-square-foot facility, BTW features over 5,200 square feet of climbing surface. The gym also has an event space, learning center and fitness area, in addition to a Kilter Board and Tension Board 2. The fitness area has equipment for training, warming up and rehabbing injuries, but because BTW is located next door to Planet Fitness, the owners decided to not go overboard with the fitness amenities. “We didn’t want to spend too much real estate on something one of our members could get next door,” Stephen said.

Training walls at BTW
When Stephen began climbing, he didn’t find a big difference between sport climbing and bouldering: “To me, the feeling of freedom is the same. Bouldering is the lowest cost option to introduce that type of movement to our city,” he said, explaining some of the thinking that went into opening a gym with only bouldering and training walls.

According to BTW’s website, finding the right space for the gym was a significant hurdle. “We’ve vetted dozens of buildings over the course of many years that just couldn’t fit our [oversized] gym dreams,” the website detailed. “By chance, we discovered an empty retail storefront near Shute Park that looked like it had promise.” The team measured ceilings, ran the numbers, and eventually leased Suite B2, the home of BTW. “Since then, we have been hard at work, opening up the space and exposing the ceilings to get the height needed for our bouldering walls,” the website continued. Construction started in early 2024, wrapping up in time for the June opening.

Walls: Rockwerx
Flooring: Asana
CRM Software: Approach
Website: www.beyondthewallclimbing.com
Instagram: @BeyondTheWall_Climbing

In Their Words: “I began climbing in 2016. Before I discovered climbing, most of my time at work and at home was spent sitting down. I’m a banker by trade, and I love board games and cooking. I would take stock of my week and realize that I had been sitting the whole time. I was stationary, and my body started to adapt to the lack of movement. Everyone knows you should move, but when the only option you can think of is an elliptical and workout machines, it’s hard to motivate yourself to get up. When I was introduced to climbing, something clicked. I remembered the feeling I had when I was a kid climbing trees, and I loved feeling like that kid again. Movement used to be a chore that required discipline. Now it’s a hobby that is fueled by passion. Physically, mentally and spiritually, I’m a better person when I’m moving.” – Stephen Johnson, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Beyond the Wall Climbing

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