Siblings Dive In, Open Two Gyms Within Four Months

Alta Climbing Gilbert climbing area
Starting a climbing gym for the first time is never easy, and even more so when opening two facilities back-to-back. Alta’s owners decided the reward was well worth it, putting up a second location in the Phoenix area―Alta Gilbert (pictured)―within four months of their first gym’s opening. (Image courtesy of Alta Climbing)

Alta Climbing
Gilbert, AZ

Specs: Alta Climbing Gilbert is a mixed-discipline climbing facility with a variety of auto belays, boulders, sport climbs, and a 15-meter speed wall. According to Pam Owens, she and the other Alta co-owners―siblings Eric Eaves, Deborah Smith and Paul Eaves―found a property which met their needs as a business and happened to be next to one of the owners’ houses. While the owners did complete some demographic research, the location was also chosen due to “the strong communities” nearby, said Owens, with a high school less than a mile away. “The roads that come in are feeder roads from Queen Creek, Gilbert, and greater metropolitan areas of the valley…Everybody passes by this way,” Owens added. Because the facility was built ground-up, Owens and Smith visited multiple gyms around the U.S. to figure out exactly what they wanted.



Alta Climbing Gilbert opened last March, less than four months after the opening of Alta’s first facility, Alta Climbing Chandler. After consulting other gym operators―such as Joe Zentmyer, co-founder and CFO of FA Climbing and Fitness―the Alta owners decided building and opening their first two facilities within a couple months from each other was worth the risk. Planning both gyms at once also had the advantage of being able to establish the right synergy from the get-go. The two facilities are a 20-minute drive from one another and, since the mixed-discipline Gilbert gym was designed to complement the bouldering-focused Chandler location, many members use their dual-membership to bounce between the two gyms.

Kids area at Alta Gilbert
Alta Gilbert complements the Chandler facility in offering roped climbing and other amenities, including a kids area that stayed open during the recent NACS event. (Image courtesy of Alta Climbing)

Owens described the Chandler facility as a “chill” bouldering gym, “even down to the colors [used for the walls],” while the Gilbert facility is faster-paced and family-focused. The latter has a designated mezzanine for kids, with a variety of auto belays ranging from 5.5 to 5.11―half of which are designated for the Walltopia Fun Walls (coined “Funtopia”), which have “skyscraper” and crate climbing challenges for younger climbers. Other features of the facility include a Moon Board, Tension board, yoga studio/group fitness room, and an indoor cycle studio. In terms of programming, Alta Climbing Gilbert offers a variety of group events (family reunions, birthday parties, scout groups), in addition to hosting various climbing education courses.

Already in September, Alta hosted the final stage of this year’s North American Cup Series, a Lead and Speed competition. As the last qualifying event before the National Championships in November, many familiar faces were seen fighting for their spot on the podium. Ella Fisher, for example―a local hero from the competition who trains at Alta―placed second ahead of Melina Costanza, winner of the 2022 USA Team Lead Qualifications. And because the facility is large enough, Alta was able to remain open to members and Funtopia visitors throughout the competition. As The Short Beta photographer Jason Chang aptly explained, “Often gyms have to close several days for these [events] and it really impacts their membership.”

Ella Fisher competing at NACS
Ella Fisher excelled in front of her home crowd at Alta Gilbert, which hosted one of this year’s key competitions in the U.S. only 6 months after the gym opened. (Image by Jason Chang @theshortbeta)

Walls: Walltopia
Flooring: Strati Climbing
CRM Software: RGP
Instagram: @AltaClimbingAZ

In Their Words: “We tried to build a gym that would feel like home, no matter who you are. Our family put a lot of work into building this gym, including the big job of the landscaping. We have over 800 plants and trees that were put in. I love it when family and friends come together and big things are accomplished! That really is how the gym came to be―four siblings came together with individual strengths and Alta was created!” – Pam Owens, co-founder and co-owner

Climbing Gym Management Series