Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hub Climbing in Markham: a great bouldering experience

Yours truly on the Dragon, an
overhanging feature above a foam pit
I’m feeling thrashed today.

Yesterday I had the pleasure — and I use that word deliberately — of attending the opening of Hub Climbing, purportedly offering the largest amount of indoor bouldering terrain in Canada.

My friend Yumi and I had a blast. There’s simply a lot of bouldering available, at all difficulty levels — so whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced climber you’ll find plenty to engage you.

I was singularly impressed by the facility. Maybe it was the brand new holds, the shiny Walltopia surface, the reassuring thick double padding, or the bright lighting, but I think the Hub is a fantastic new addition for the local climbing community in the GTA area.

One wall was reserved for 'World Cup'-style comp problems.
Of the 6, I was able to top these three. I could only do the ‘intermediate’
versions of 2 of the remaining 3. Need to get stronger! 

The sheer amount of wall surface available for bouldering is lovely. A friend of mine pointed out that for shorter walls & bouldering, instead of spending money building up, you’re spending the money on building out. It allows the gym to set problems by colour (instead of the more common taping), which gives a very clean and aesthetic presentation.

Setting by colour: clean presentation. There’s more than 1 arch at the Hub!
Photo via The Hub Facebook page.

I have ambivalent feelings about this; taping gives you the widest universe of holds to choose from, and allows for density, but invariably looks messy; whereas setting by colour looks great, but then your problems tend to be thematically driven by the sets of holds that are acquired, i.e. a sloper set, a pinch set, etc.

Variety for everyone. These photos don’t really capture the scope of the place

I enjoyed the topping out. A couple of the finishes felt a touch committing, but it was always on an advanced problem, so if you got to that point you undoubtedly had the skills to properly assess the situation. One of the top out areas has a slide for you to get back to ground level. It was an amusing touch, though I’d still prefer a downclimb option.

The grading was... inconsistent. But it’s completely unfair to make judgments on opening day; an assessment six months from now, once they’ve established a flow, will give a better idea of the grading. More importantly, the setting was fun, independent of the ratings.

As a boulderer, I don’t think I’d bother bringing a harness to do routes at the Hub, if only because of the wealth of bouldering available. The route section seems more set up for beginners and to cycle through birthday parties, schoolgroups, and corporate events—which is nice because then you kind of have a subtle distinction in areas and don’t have to worry as much about keeping watch for complete beginners in your fall zone. Additional areas for yoga and weight training are planned but haven’t been built out yet.

Early birds lining up for the opening. Yes that’s
me being an enthusiastic goof at the back.
Photo via The Hub Instagram account.

I had a chance to briefly speak to each of the three owners, Yoav, Rob and Steven. I also met Max Summerlee the gym GM & head routesetter. Getting the gym built was a lengthy process of location selection, design planning, engineering, permit wrangling, and logistics, and you could tell from their faces it has been a rewarding if tiring journey to get to this juncture. They should be commended on their accomplishment.

If you live in downtown Toronto and you don’t have a car, it’s a serious trek to get there. You’ll want to budget a couple of hours.

We took the subway to Victoria Park station, the 24 Victoria Park bus up to Victoria Park and Steeles, and then leisurely cycled north up Woodbine for about twenty five minutes until we arrived at the gym, just past Highway 7. At some point I’ll try going to Finch station and using the 53 Steeles East bus instead.

Lastly, for those of you who care about this sort of thing, the washrooms and changerooms were compact but clean.

Congratulations to the Hub for their amazing, well-organized launch — for a day one opening, the attention to detail was superb. Even though it’s too far for me to attend regularly, I’m excited about the opening of what promises to be an excellent bouldering facility. I strongly recommend checking it out; it’s absolutely worth a visit.

Hub Climbing is located at 165 Macintosh Drive in Markham.

ps. Thanks to Max for getting us into an unused slot on the popular Dragon feature! That brought a huge smile to our faces.