The Making of Urban Climb Collingwood

And so we join the bouldering and rock climbing community in Melbourne… Urban Climb proudly threw open the doors of our brand new facility on the 13th of August in Collingwood. In just a few weeks, we’ve welcomed hordes of psyched rock climbers, boulderers, first-time rock climbers, yogis, guys, girls, new staff, route setters, and more. We threw an epic launch party. We’ve held our first yoga classes (to a packed house), and the route setters have already begun rotating new climbs.  We couldn’t be more excited to have met all these new faces, and are genuinely humbled by the response to what we’ve created.

Before we look forward to more blow-out parties, world class climbing and an ever-growing community, we want to take a look back at what it took to create this incredible space.

Genesis…

It takes a special kind of vision to look at a derelict warehouse and see an opportunity to create a space where a community can come together. A space where a community of diverse folks can improve themselves through rock climbing and fitness. Yet, when Urban Climb CEO Alexander Cox-Taylor entered 29-41 Down Street for the first time, that’s what he saw. Through the cracked paint, mounds of rubbish, and antique machinery, he saw a rock climbing gym.

Previously a furniture making factory, the Down Street building was going to take a serious overhaul. Quite how much of an overhaul, we couldn’t yet fully appreciate.

The canvas, and the painters…

The building was gutted, with dust and timber shards flying. Urban Climb veterans Nick and Blair held down the ship admirably, coordinating the launch of the project, and putting the first pieces of the gym puzzle together.

Then one fine Melbourne morning, an important truck arrived. Commissioned by our friends at ICP, our walls had arrived. In record time, the vision became increasingly concrete, with the wall framing taking shape and the first panels attached. For the first time, we had a glimpse of a climbing gym. After just a few weeks, we had walls. A week later, we had mats. It was then that it was time to bring in the route setters.

An eclectic team – from Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Germany – assembled to set about creating our product: the climbing experience. At Urban Climb, route setting is a core component of what we do, and we’re proud to have the biggest full-time route setting team in the country, led by Daniel Gordon. True professionals (in their own special way…). Before long, we had a stunning array of rock climbing movements, compiled using leading international hold brands.

Route setting is an under appreciated art. The sort of job that you don’t realize is a job, until you do, then you sit in awe of what these talented guys and girls are able to create. Day after day, month after month, our team blends athleticism, creativity, and physical effort to design movements to be enjoyed by our community. Building problem-solving into a vertical dance demanding varying degrees of balance, composure, and power.

“What we aim to create in Collingwood is giant mixing pot of movement styles, difficulty levels and climbing experiences. We’ve really spent a lot of time making sure the walls, the holds and features cater for everyones needs and that there is something exciting for everyone to climb on, whether it’s your first time climbing or you’re a long term crusher. Urban’s setting philosophy has always revolved around creating an experience.

The opening set was a great demonstration of what we’re about and what we’re capable of. Moving forward, we’re going to be resetting sections of wall, offering new climbs at every level on a weekly basis. In every colour grade we aim to create boulders that will not only get you fit but also make you think, get you socialising and discussing different methods with other climbers.  We will also regularly invest in new holds and features to keep the climbing psyche high for both the climbers and the route setters.

Our base setting team involves myself, Jane Engler and Will Hammersla. With such a diverse and awesome core team, I know we’ll be able to create some really fun stuff for everyone!”

Patrik Banda, Collingwood Head Route Setter (IG: @pwb_)

 

New members of the family, and a Canadian captain…

The setters had finished their creation of the opening set, and our attention turned to the other half: the non-climbing spaces. We were determined to do justice to the rest of the facility.

A building site is a chaotic place, and preparing to operate a climbing gym amid such chaos demands a special kind of man… a man of poise, composure, and a man who isn’t afraid of the frosty Melbourne winter. Enter Curtis – our Canadian captain.

I was excited by the opportunity to get to manage the largest of Urban’s bouldering facilities after previously managing it’s smallest. The challenge of an interstate, large scale project was something that doesn’t come around too often so I jumped at it.

I would have to say I’m really happy with the response from the community. The amount of work that went into the whole process of this facility that most people didn’t see is just insane, and it’s really satisfying that the gym has been so well received by everyone who has come in to climb.

Curtis Coulson, Venue Manager

 

Three magic words…

We are open.

After the incredible efforts of the project team, the hard work of the route setters, and the support of the community, we were able to open for business on the 13th of August. Melbournites came in droves, and some die-hard Queenslander’s even made the trip. We climbed with our founding members and introduced our style of climbing to Melbourne.

After a couple of weeks of non-stop climbing, the heartbeat of our new community had started to emerge. Faces were becoming familiar. Beta was being shared and projects were being sessioned. High time for a party then.

On the 1st day of September, we decided to put the climbing shoes to one side and throw the first of many banging parties. The Facebook event said we’d wrap at 11pm, but it turned out to be more like early Sunday morning (the die-hard crew who stuck it out to the end struggled to remember the precise time…) Mega sized games, a rather fancy grazing table, and a couple of DJs were just what the doctor ordered. To those of you who came out – old friends and new – thank you!

When the dust settled, and the 6am cleaning squad had done the arduous post-party tidy up, we could resume business as usual. As we settle into what will become a new routine, we’ve had the opportunity to look around and take pride in what our team have been able to create. When we first entered 29-41 Down Street, we knew there was a lot to be done, and we knew that it was in details that were going to set this space apart. Now – as we begin our post-open journey proper – it is those details that we can look around and truly appreciate.

Our downstairs training space allows psyched climbers – new and old – to hone in on their weaknesses, and chip away at their goals. Starting with a steep training wall, stacked with holds from more than 10 manufacturers, you can create your own boulders and circuits. For a more focused and collaborative session, there’s the Tension Board. A symmetrical training wall set at an approachable angle, featuring skin friendly wooden holds, that connects with a collaborative database featuring 1000’s of user set boulder problems ranging from V0 to V12. Using the iPad provided, you can choose a problem, and the LEDs will light the way for you to try the boulder. For even more targeted training, get on the peg board or campus board. Then, when the fingers can take no more, there’s pull up bars and body weight exercise equipment.

As a team, we were determined to ensure that the non-climbing spaces of our venue were just as usable and fit-for-purpose as the climbing spaces. Also, we think waste sucks, and character is awesome. To this end, if you look closely, past the staggering array of holds and wall angles, you’ll notice some sweet touches to our furniture. Custom built by Urban Climb’s in house build crew, we’ve re-purposed waste materials from the original structures of the warehouse. Our iPad counter uses cut-offs of an i-beam that was removed when we removed some of  the existing internal structure of the building.

Firstly we wanted some statement pieces of furniture that had to be practical and serve a purpose, but also reflected the previous history and feel of the building. It wasn’t feasible to recycle some of the timber as the furniture had to be produced in Brisbane, but the Merbau hardwood timber fitted the brief, when combined with the I-beams we had specifically cut out from surplus material in the building. This integrates the furniture into the space much like the mezzanine and it looks consistent.

The counter is the focal piece of the gym as you walk in. Utilizing the I-beams helped to fit the brief of an open but solid, sturdy piece. The plywood featured in the storage units, seating hubs and training area is highly practical, but these are also tied into the overall consistency of the fit out. The old building had that industrial feeling – being previously a furniture making warehouse – and I-beams were everywhere, so we wanted to retain that character.

One other feature we’re all proud of is the mezzanine floor. The old mezzanine floor was in a very poor state and a lot of discussion went on about ripping out the old mezzanine flooring and replacing it with new flooring. We’re glad we didn’t. Though quite a process, some sections had to be replaced from the removed boards over reception and the whole lot had a huge amount of sanding and detailing before being finished, but the time and work was worth it. None of us expecting it to come up looking as good as it does.

Fred Dorrington, Ninja Warrior & Ninja Carpenter (IG: @fred.dorrington)

 

Fred displaying that his skill set extends beyond carpentry and Ninja Warrior. What can’t this bloke do?

We’re just getting started…

When we opened, we were stoked with how the gym looked, but knew there was more to do. The first step was rolling out our upstairs yoga space. This area will host a range of yoga classes, starting with Flow and Strength sessions, facilitated by experienced yogis and local Melbournites Madeleine and Mel.

I was introduced to yoga at a young age. I watched my mother practice and was sent to meditation school every weekend at the age of six. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded with a family of yogis, but I found my personal passion for the practice after suffering a spinal compression fracture in early 2017. I love integrating yoga into my daily life, and practicing asanas wherever I can can – even if that’s waiting in line at the market!

My aim at Urban Climb Collingwood is to give attendees a space to dive inwards and focus on their breath, with the intention to settle the fluctuations of the mind. By doing so, I hope that my students can begin their own journey to find their true inner self. I love taching from experience, and creating a safe environment for students to play around with their practice.

Madeleine Bong, Yoga Teacher

To follow, we’ll have fitness classes, more events, and continue to fill out the gym. A shipment of exercise equipment is inbound, and due to arrive before the end of September.

We hope to see you in the gym soon, and thanks again for the warm welcome!


Urban Climb Collingwood is located at 29-41 Down Street, Collingwood, Victoria. Come in for a climb between 12pm and 10pm week days, or 10am to 6pm weekends.

Never been to an Urban Climb? Find out about how to get your hands on a free week of climbing. Pricing information and directions to the gym can be found here.

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