Climb a Dragon in Canada – Gym of the Week

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The Hub Mississauga youth program
Camp kids jumping for joy at Hub Climbing Mississauga. (All images courtesy of Hub Climbing)

GYM: Hub Climbing
LOCATION: Markham and Mississauga, Ontario
OPEN YEAR: 2014 and 2019, respectively
SQFT OF CLIMBING: A combined 38,000 square feet
WHY WE’D VISIT: Dragon mythology, augmented reality wall, auto belays galore
WHO WE SPOKE TO: Steven Brown, Co-Owner; Natalie Chan, Head Manager

Family Friendly

Hub Climbing is a duo of climbing gyms―Markham and Mississauga―located in Ontario, Canada. The gym in Markham offers 18,000 square feet of climbing, including 23 auto belays, an augmented reality wall, and a 23-foot-tall dragon-themed bouldering wall over a foam pit. The Mississauga location is even larger, with 20,000 square feet of climbing, 33 auto belays, a speed climbing wall, and a 49-foot dragon wall of its own for roped climbing.

 

According to Steven Brown, co-owner of Hub Climbing, the gyms are “designed to give the most climbing choice any climber in our region can ask for.” Included in that objective is serving families and children, and Hub offers a plethora of amenities for youngsters. Besides birthday parties, Hub hosts STEM camps featuring robotic programming and video game design. Another perk for climbers of all ages is the video games one can play on the augmented reality wall. A few favorites are pong, whack a bat, and live-wire―a game where climbers avoid a virtual wire with a voltage differential.

The Hub Markham augmented reality wall
Working hard or hardly working? A climber avoids the “live wire” at Hub Climbing Markham.

Climbing Dragons

Both the Markham and Mississauga gyms have become well-known for their dragon-themed walls―the latter of which was recently climbed by famed actor Jason Momoa (“He called our facility a gem and that made us happy,” Brown said of Momoa’s visit). Brown described the unique way the facilities tie into mythology research by Joseph Campbell―specifically his book The Heroes Journey. “Our dragons are patterned after that master myth: A quest you are alone on, where no one can really help you, where you are facing your dragon and if you can conquer it, you can bring the learning back to others.”

Brown also noted that the dragon is found in many cultures around the world, which ties into Hub Climbing’s community focus. “In the Toronto area we have people from so many backgrounds, and many of us share a dragon to grow from in some way, shape or form, internal or external or both. Other than fun and fitness, isn’t climbing also so much about growth? The dragons really capture that spirit for many of us.”

The Hub Mississauga dragon wall in Canada
The 49-foot top-rope/lead dragon wall at Hub Climbing Mississauga.

Prioritizing Inclusivity

One of the results of Hub Climbing’s efforts to be a welcoming community ‘hub’ is its gym management staff. According to Natalie Chan, Hub’s Head Manager, all but one of Hub’s managers are women, and half are part of the LGBTQ community; five of Hub’s nine routesetters are also women. “Most climbing gyms are quite male dominated in terms of their management and setter positions,” said Chan.

Some of the essentials Hub focuses on to build an inclusive environment for its gym staff is having an all gendered single stall bathroom available on site, planning Pride events and womxn nights at the gyms, and always being intentional about pronouns. “As we have quite a few managers and staff who are part of the LGBTQ community, we are very aware that using preferred pronouns and names goes a long way and creates a good relationship between coworkers and management. It also helps to create an inclusive place to work,” Chan said.

The Hub Markham dragon wall in Canada
The dragon bouldering wall at Hub Climbing Markham.

Together Again

Like other gyms in Ontario, Hub Climbing had to weather one of the longest shutdowns due to COVID. Since reopening just a few months ago (July 16 for members, August 1 for the public), Hub provided members and punch pass holders with free climbing for the last two weeks of July. “This was the right thing to do as customers were likely out of shape and couldn’t use the gym to the max,” said Brown.

While still feeling the effects of the pandemic, Brown remains hopeful and expressed gratitude for the people working hard to keep the Hub gyms up and running. “We can’t wait to expand our events and programs. There is a labor shortage at the moment, but when we can, we can’t wait to reopen clinics and yoga lessons. More reasons to come in and meet people and stay healthy. And more programs for kids to learn and grow stronger, both mentally and physically.”