“The Magic” of Wooden Mountain – Gym of the Week

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Climbing at Wooden Mountain
Wooden Mountain climbers share beta for a new prow set. “I’m super proud of our gym, mainly the staff, the members and the community that we have,” said WM’s co-owner Adam Lum. “It is unique, and that uniqueness comes from our people.” (All images courtesy of Wooden Mountain)

GYM: Wooden Mountain Bouldering Gym
LOCATION: Loveland, CO
SQFT OF CLIMBING: 4000
WHY WE’D VISIT: 24-hour access, hospitality and funkiness, chance to meet Heel Hook Harry
WHO WE SPOKE TO: Adam Lum, Co-Owner/Operator

Finding an Empty Corner in a Crowded Room

Wooden Mountain Bouldering Gym (WM) is a 24-hour-access, boutique-style climbing facility located in Loveland, Colorado. According to Adam Lum, operator and co-owner of WM, the concept for the gym came from the desire to establish a climbing gym community in their city. Although Colorado contains the second most commercial climbing gyms of any state in the U.S.―41 at the end of 2021, according to CBJ’s Gyms & Trends report―before WM opened in 2018 there were none in the city of Loveland. “Loveland was and is our community, and we wanted a climbing gym in our community,” Lum told CBJ.

 

First-time gym owners Lum, Brian Stefanović and Evan Mann thus set out to carve a role for themselves in the climbers’ state of Colorado, choosing a gym model they felt also matched the needs of the local Loveland community. According to Lum, their business plan has been “at least 70% culture” from the get-go, beginning with the bouldering hub’s design. “The gym was designed to be hospitable,” Lum recalled, “with funky details, handcrafted décor and furnishings,” and a rustic feel to go with the area’s outdoorsy vibes. And like other gyms in the state, WM’s climbing walls in Loveland are in close proximity to the legendary outdoor ones nearby―Rocky Mountain National Park and Horsetooth Reservoir, for instance, are only 30 minutes away.

Transitioning to 24-Hour Access

Besides the gym’s design, another part of Lum and Mann’s plan to create a culture of hospitality at WM was 24/7 access for members. Although the gym’s original concept included 24-hour access, the owners opted for a longer-term approach in the end. In waiting three years post-opening to make the switch, Lum noted staff and members had more time to build a foundation of mutual trust and respect that he found necessary for round-the-clock access―a membership option which gym goers who maintain non-traditional hours have been making use of. “[It’s] excellent access for professionals that work 2nd/3rd shifts, students and night owls,” said Lum, who added that 24/7 access has also helped foster a “strong sense of ownership” among WM’s members.

Wooden Mountain's facility
A quiet afternoon in WM’s early days. Today the gym offers a 24-hour membership option, for “professionals that work 2nd/3rd shifts, students and night owls” to be able to climb late at night or early in the morning.

Since the gym was initially not a 24-hour-access gym, Lum gave some insight into the transition. In addition to logistics like getting insured, setting up key card/pin door access, installing video surveillance and updating waiver/membership documents, for WM clearly communicating expectations was essential―especially for safety matters. WM requires an orientation for new 24/7 access members which explains rules like which areas are off limits outside of business hours (auto belays and weights). After closing, front desk staff post signage which reiterates where first aid kits are located, what numbers to call in case of an emergency, and what needs locking. “24/7 is pretty fantastic,” Lum said when all was said and done. “It has given a new dimension to our membership and has become a membership to aspire to having.”

Welcoming the Challenges, Rewards and Quirks

Being a smaller and bouldering-focused climbing gym does come with its own challenges, and Lum described some of the solutions WM tries to find to stay competitive in a more crowded Colorado market. Since it can be challenging for WM youth program athletes to train during sport climbing season, for example, WM partners with Ascent Studio―a nearby Fort Collins gym which does provide roped climbing―to offer a dual-membership option.

Wooden Mountain youth climbers
An afternoon youth club practice at WM, which offers a dual-membership option with Ascent Studio to help its young crushers and others have access to roped climbing.

But most of all, WM adopts some less-conventional quirks to set itself apart: there are options to purchase sasquatch piggyback tours online, an old piano in the center of the gym, and co-owner Evan Mann’s artwork of obscure drawings of creatures hung around the gym; seats for climbers include large tree stumps which are furrowed to hold stick brushes; and the gym’s peculiar mascot, Heel Hook Harry, keeps WM standing out from the crowd.

“I’m super proud of our gym, mainly the staff, the members and the community that we have; I think that is the magic of Wooden Mountain. It is unique, and that uniqueness comes from our people,” said Lum. “It is really hard to describe what this community is like, but it is special.”