“DIY Spirit” Fuels Small-Town Bouldering Gym Build in Colorado

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Bethany Griffin climbing at Salida Boulders
Salida Boulders operator Bethany Griffin (pictured climbing) says “there was no lifelong dream” behind the creation of the gym―just the desire “for a place to climb” in the small town. (All images by Kate Noelke, courtesy of Salida Boulders)

Salida Boulders
Salida, Colorado

Specs: Salida Boulders is, as their website describes, “a bouldering gym inhabiting a historic building in downtown Salida, Colorado.” The 1,600-square-foot, small-town and members-only climbing gym first opened in March 2021. The gym features 13-foot climbing walls, hangboards and a campus board and uses a circuit system for grades, with problems ranging from V0 to V8.

According to Bethany Griffin, the operator of Salida Boulders, she and her family “moved to Salida and wondered where the climbing gym was.” She spoke with other business owners of the town and got connected to the gym’s current landlord. Oddly enough, “the stars aligned,” because the landlord had already wanted a climbing gym in the space they found. Soon after, they began communicating with a structural engineer and a wall manufacturer on the design. “There was no lifelong dream, or anything cool behind it,” Griffin described, “other than we wanted a place to climb and figured other people would be interested in that too.”

 

Construction began within a month of signing the lease, and largely as a DIY project. According to Griffin, she and various Salida community members “finished the space ourselves, from the bathrooms to building a front desk to installing finishing, flooring and painting.” The crew is proud of their “DIY spirit,” as they constructed the climbing walls, framing and paneling without the assistance of a major wall company. “Every hole drilled for t-nuts was done by us. Every t-nut screwed in was done by us. I created a wash for our walls and applied it to every panel,” said Griffin.

With a population of under 7,000 residents in Salida, Griffin “found staffed hours to not be necessary for the business.” Instead, they provide key-card access to members only, but still operate with a standard visitor agreement and in-person orientations like other gyms. “We determined, very early on, that we wanted our focus to be on the local climbing community and it was ok not to extend ourselves and create unnecessary overhead by providing access to those passing through,” Griffin explained. However, since its opening the gym has hosted events for school groups, a career shadow day for middle schoolers, and events for non-profit organizations.

Salida Boulders' DIY bouldering walls
The construction of Salida Boulders was largely a DIY project. The gym’s climbing walls, in particular, were built by Griffin and other members of the town’s community.

Walls: Self-built
Flooring: Vertical Solutions
CRM Software: Their own database and PaySimple
Website: www.salidaboulders.com
Instagram: @salidaboulders

In Their Words: “I would love to see smaller gyms pop up in smaller towns, serving smaller populations, and for them not to feel pressured or that the only way to be successful is to offer everything to everyone. Not everyone can serve breakfast all day, be open 7 days a week, or have 66 different types of sandwiches.” – Bethany Griffin, operator