New Zealand Gym Fined After Fall

Photo; Vertical Assault
Photo: Vertical Assault
On Oct. 21 a New Zealand climbing gym was fined $35,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $15,000 to the victim after an accident that left a 15-year-old with serious leg and foot injuries. Vertical Assault Limited, which runs the climbing wall, was fined after the victim, who was climbing with a group of family and friends, fell 15 meters (49 feet) while being lowered from the top of the wall by a 14-year-old friend. The fall resulted in the victim breaking his right tibia and fracturing his left heel bone. He subsequently underwent several surgeries and had metal pins inserted in both legs. It’s unclear what caused the victim to be dropped, but all signs point to belayer error exasperated by a deficiency in the instruction the belayer received prior to climbing.
Non-padded flooring under roped climbing areas (Photo: Vertical Assault)
Non-padded flooring under roped climbing areas (Photo: Vertical Assault)
“Although this party had been briefed by staff on how to assist each other, some of the participants told our investigators the briefing was inconsistent and confusing,” said Keith Stewart, Chief Investigations Inspector.
Photo: Vertical Assault
Photo: Vertical Assault
Another possible aspect that was noted by authorities was a lack of supervision of climbers and spectators waiting to climb. “Vertical Assault did not have a policy to ensure there was a proper staff to climber ratio which made it difficult to adequately supervise belayers and climbers,” Mr Stewart said. Though it is not known what belay technique Vertical Assault teaches, if the photos on their website are any indication, their belay instruction may be substandard (see photo at top), and the lack of proper flooring may have contributed to the severity of the accident. The date of the photos is unknown. This accident is a reminder that any facility that operates a climbing wall of any size needs to provide proper instruction that conforms to industry standards. The climbing wall is located in the town of Turangi, New Zealand and is part of a larger backpackers hostel and cafe. SOURCE:

Gyms Experiment with Smartphone Apps

In the past five years smartphones have radically changed the way many people navigate, share with friends, get news, and much more. Smartphone apps like ClimbFind, ClimbingApp and Cruxbook help users locate climbing gyms anywhere in the world. There are also numerous apps that let climbers track their sends, both indoors and out, for training and bragging purposes. Yet with so many climbers using mobile devices, there are still relatively few gyms that are taking advantage of this technology to interact with customers. A handful of climbing facilities have developed their own apps to provide customers with basic information about their facility. CityROCK Climbing Center in Colorado Springs, CO has developed a mobile app that displays the gym’s hours of operation, contact info, event calendar and a live web cam of the facility. The app also allows customers to sign a digital waiver form and check-in to the facility with a digital member card.
CityROCK mobile app
The Rock Spot in Boston, MA has an android app that offers similar features, plus coupons and a loyalty punch-pass. Climbing gyms in Europe seem to be one mobile-step ahead of America. The Arch Climbing Wall in London, England has an iPhone app that, in addition to many of the features offered by the CityROCK and Rock Spot apps, also provides detailed information about their boulder problems. Each time the Arch sets a new circuit it gets posted to the app, and users can quickly view the circuit’s color, grades, routesetter and date. The Arch app is built on a free app platform called theSend climbing topo apps, which allows users to create mobile guidebooks for outdoor climbing areas. Steve Golley, developer of theSend, said in an email interview, “The project was created as a not-for-profit method of generating money for bolt and access funds though guidebook sales… The Send platform provides all of the necessary tools for a team of authors to create a fully featured guide and start generating donations straight away.” While designed for outdoor crags, Golley thought it would also work well for indoor gyms and suggested it to the owner of the Arch Climbing Wall, who liked the idea.
Arch Climbing Wall / theSend app
Left: Arch Climbing Wall app. Right: theSend mobile guide for North Wales Rock
When asked about the possibility of other gyms using this platform Golley said, “It would be great to introduce the concept to other gyms, the product is turnkey as it stands but I would expect most gyms to want to do at least some customisation to make it their own implementation. In those cases I would speak to the gym owners to establish their requirements and discuss costs for the extra development. The app itself and platform tools are free to use in their current form.” Earlier this month a developer in Switzerland released the ClimbinGym app, a mobile platform that is currently being used by Bloczone, a climbing gym in Fribourg, Switzerland. Like the Arch Climbing Wall app, the ClimbinGym app provides customers with basic info about a gym (hours, rates, website), a digital member card and detailed information about all routes in the gym (location, grade, color, routesetter, hold brand, date, type). The app also gives users the ability to filter routes by grade and get notifications when new routes in that range are added. In the gym, each route has a small barcode that can be scanned with the app to display who set the route and when. Users can then give smile/frown ratings to the route.
ClimbinGym app
ClimbinGym app
What sets the ClimbinGym app apart is the backend functions for the gym managers and routesetters. As new routes are put up the routesetter attaches a barcode with the corresponding grade and scans the barcode with the app. “He then has to add only the color and the position in the gym. This process is very quick (less than 30 sec per route) since it is all possible from the application,” said Thibaut Mauron, the developer of the app, in an email interview. Each route is fed into a master database that tracks the number of routes, age of each route, productivity of each routesetter and grade distribution. The head routesetter has access to an online dashboard that can graphically display and filter this information, and is able to task routesetters with setting or removing specific routes. Currently the online dashboard is only available in French and German, but an English version is in development. “When we screw a new [route] in our gym, it is now really easy to store all necessary information about it in the database (screwed by, date and time, difficulty, location in the gym, art of the holds)… The app also [tells] us when a route should be unscrewed and replaced,” said Martin Rebetez, a manager at Blockzone. While feature rich, the ClimbinGym app is not cheap. The app developer, Thibaut Mauron, said he charges 1000 CHF ($1108) for the initial setup and about 500 CHF each year for continuing access to the online portal, updates and customer support. climbingym_barcodes2
ClimbinGym online dashbard
ClimbinGym barcodes and online dashboard
There are other software tools that help facilities manage their climbing inventory. ClimbCheck is one such tool that helps gyms monitor their routes and boulder problems, and also gives customers the ability to see when new routes are added, track which routes they have climbed and give routes a star rating. However the platform is web-based and doesn’t take advantage of the mobility and interactivity of a mobile application. Furthermore ClimbCheck appears to be on hold while they make improvements to the platform. According to their website “ClimbCheck is undergoing a complete re-build, new platform with a lot of new features and very fast!” and their Facebook page says “Coming August 31 Very soon (we promise)”. We’ll have to wait and see what new features are contained in this release, and if mobile tools will be included. We are certainly in the early days of a technology that will have new and unimaginable impacts on how customers interact with climbing facilities. How about QR codes that link to video beta for a boulder problem? Rating tools that share the most “liked” routes on your Facebook page? Custom training programs based on what routes customers try and sent? The opportunities are almost limitless. If your gym is already using mobile technology to engage with customers, keep your route inventory up to date, or for anything else, let us know about it in the comments.

Chicago Finally Gets Climbing Gym…Or Two

The last great climbing gym market in the US is about to be blown open with the addition of not one, but two new climbing gyms. Chicago is the third most populous US city with 2.7 million residents, and currently has zero full-service climbing only facilities. That’s about to change with First Ascent Climbing Gym building a 26,000 square foot facility, with a planned opening in the spring of 2014. Also breaking on to the scene is Brooklyn Boulders, a New York-based climbing gym company which, according to Chicago Real Estate Daily, just signed a 15-year lease for a 25,000 square foot building in downtown Chicago. CBJ reached out to Brooklyn Boulders but they declined to comment on specifics of the Chicago deal. But according to Chicago Real Estate Daily:
Brooklyn Boulders, which has two locations on the East Coast, plans to expand the single-story structure to install climbing walls meant to resemble craggy mountain faces. The entire project, including renovations, is expected to cost $3 million, according to construction project information provider Brooklyn Boulders chose the West Loop because it is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the country, said Jeremy Balboni, one of company’s founders. “It’s certainly one of the areas where every cool restaurant and every cool company is moving,” he said. “That, to us, was extremely attractive.” The gym will offer some of the tallest indoor climbing walls in the country, Mr. Balboni said, declining to specify the height. The company also will offer classes including yoga and a café, he said. Brooklyn will race to the top against Chicago-based First Ascent LLC, which bought a site in the South Loop where it plans a $7 million to $8 million project, Jonathan Shepard, one of Ascent’s owners, said in an email. Mr. Shepard declined to disclose the site of the rock climbing gym. First Ascent, which raised money from climbing enthusiasts as well as investors, expected competition, Mr. Shepard said. “We didn’t assume we’d be the first gym,” he said. “We felt pretty comfortable we would do pretty well if we were one of three gyms.”
The Chicago area has remained an elusive market for commercial climbing gyms for several reasons, the most prominent of which is the cost of real estate. But since 2009 the square foot price for industrial property has dropped from a high of $85 / square foot to a current average of $55 / square foot.
This alone may be the cause of much interest in the area, but that’s not the only reason climbing gym companies may be targeting Chicago right now. The perceived risk of opening a facility in a city like Chicago, which is not known for having a large population of climbers, has been mitigated by the entry of other gyms in similar markets. Stone Summit, for example, built one of the country’s largest climbing gyms outside of Atlanta, Georgia, an area of the country more famous for its obesity rates than for its recreation enthusiasts. However, Stone Summit has shown that it’s possible to run a large, successful climbing facility without a ready-made audience; they attracted some existing climbers but more importantly built their membership by attracting new people to the sport with a well-equipped, spacious and attractive facility. Currently Chicago-area climbers have very limited options for indoor climbing. Hidden Peaks, which is located inside Lakeshore Academy, a recreational gymnastic facility, is the only climbing wall open to the public. With such a large, young and healthy population we can expect to see, perhaps, a third climbing gym opening in Chicago in the near future.