Former “Mountain Kid” Expands Adventure Training Facility to Include Climbing

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Climbing at The Mountain Project
The Mountain Project, a mountain sports training center in Montana, gained an expansive climbing section last year that was built by climbers at the gym. (Photos courtesy of The Mountain Project)

The Mountain Project
Bozeman, Montana

Specs: Mike Wolfe grew up in Montana as a self-described “mountain kid,” spending his days doing practically every outdoor activity Montana has to offer: hiking, hunting, skiing, climbing and running, among others. His early 20s were focused on climbing until he found “a passion for mountain running and ultra-distance races.” Wolfe then raced professionally for 15 years while also working full-time as a lawyer. “[I] started thinking about a career transition and opening a gym, training center and coaching service for mountain sports,” he said.

Climbing Gym Management Series

In 2016, Wolfe opened a 4,000squarefoot training facility in Bozeman, Montana, designed to “offer highquality training for all mountain athletes.” Bozeman was a desirable spot for the facility not only because it is Wolfe’s hometown but because of the strong mountain sports community. An additional perk was the space in the market for The Mountain Project’s unique business offerings. Wolfe found a building with a layout that matched what he wanted to offer and, although at the time he wasn’t sure the expansion would be feasible, the bouldering portion of the gym finally opened in 2022.

Group fitness class at the gym
Besides the climbing, training options at the gym consist of several group fitness classes, such as the pictured Thanksgiving Burn class of 2019.

Construction of the expansion first began in the Spring of 2020, but Wolfe opted to postpone the buildout due to the pandemic, as the risks seemed too high to continue. Work resumed in the Fall of 2021, and the bouldering and dry tooling components of the facility opened just over a year later. According to Wolfe, he and his team designed and installed the flooring and walls themselves. “We had no outside help from any climbing manufacturing companies, just lots of help from climbers [who] had helped build other high-quality gyms in Europe,” he said. “We went through lots of challenges during the buildout of how exactly we wanted the walls to be designed, to fit our space and maximize the space for the best training.”

Digital Climbing Holds

The climbing features, accounting for about 25% of the facility, include two hangboard setups, a campus board, Treadwall, Grasshopper board, spray wall, and ice climbing/dry tooling cave, in addition to the 12-foot bouldering walls. An interesting dynamic at the gym is that the boulder problems remain ungraded. For Wolfe, it’s been a way to reduce “expectations or preconceived ideas on what level [climbers] can or cannot climb” and keep the focus on movement.

“Training with a purpose” is, as Wolfe described, the focus of the gym, apparent in the specialized strength and conditioning classes, such as dry land training, group classes for ski teams and youth groups in town, sport-specific endurance classes, hunting training, and classes for general mountain fitness. In addition to personal trainers, the staff consists of registered dietitians, endurance-sport-focused trainers, and climbingfocused coaches. Prior to opening their own facility, Wolfe suggested operators “carry out a local market analysis, ensure the business can actually be competitive and sustain growth, hire highly competent coaches, and avoid diluting the strengths of the business (don’t try to do too much, or become spread too thin).”

Community members
The community at The Mountain Project includes a variety of athletes in the area, from those planning a big-wall adventure to runners competing in endurance races.

Walls: Owner/Contractor
Flooring: Owner/Contractor
CRM Software: Punchpass
Website: www.mountainprojectmt.com
Instagram: @MountainProjectMT

In Their Words: “We take our work seriously but have lots of fun. We strive to build a strong community of athletes [who] support each other and want to train together. It’s an inspiring place to train. We will have a 75-year-old man with a fused ankle and back working out next to an Olympic Nordic skier, while a climber who boulders V12 is training next door. Everyone is supportive and inclusive, and the environment feeds on itself…I think it goes back to the community we seek to instill. Supportive and inclusive, not competitive with anyone other than yourself.” – Mike Wolfe, founder of The Mountain Project

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