— Kevin Underhill
The smell of new mats and the sound of excited chatter fill the new Crag X Climbing Centre downtown. The massive windowed-frontage on the 700 block of Pandora Avenue gives passer-bys a glimpse into the life of a Victoria rock climber.
The massive undertaking of moving from their decades-old Rock Bay location has taken a toll on head of operations Drew Lauder.
“It’s a ridiculous endeavour,” Lauder said. “Just stripping every route and cleaning every single hold that comes down was a crazy process.”
After commissioning the tallest crane on Vancouver Island, trucking in 80,000-pound cement slabs from Duncan and spending upward of $2.5 million, Crag X finally has a new place to call home.
The indoor climbing centre has an expansive 46-foot wall and offers more and safer bouldering areas than their previous site. The new gym officially opened their doors on Nov. 30 and is already swarming with climbers.
“We’re an incredibly busy facility; we have well over 200 people every day,” Lauder said.
Crag X caters to all skill levels but focuses primarily on adult members, of which they have about 500 active. Deborah Bricks, a new member, moved to Victoria from Toronto two months ago and has been coming to Crag X every two days since it opened.
“Climbing is a great social activity. You get to meet, connect and talk with people who are fit, healthy and like-minded,” she said.
Bricks met Carrie Cameron during opening week and the two have since become climbing partners — something Cameron said is common in the Victoria climbing community.
“You just get to know people in here. You end up chatting and it’s a really friendly community,” Cameron said, they’ll likely continue to climb together for a long time.
Lauder said the community atmosphere is something that Crag X takes great pride in. The people are open and welcoming to each other and the staff.
Crag X is not the only new climbing option in town. Last November, UVic opened their new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities featuring a climbing wall over 50 feet. Lauder said that Crag X has one advantage over every other gym.
“The thing that has kept us alive is our route setting,” Lauder said. “We have just a silly standard for route setting and it’s the reason people keep coming back.”