At Dublin’s first public climbing gym, climbers meet, get married and have children. It’s that kind of place: Like the Cheers of climbing spots.
The gym, Gravity Climbing Centre, sits in an office park on the south-west side of Dublin, tucked in the back in an old warehouse. It is a large and square building, split down the middle, the other side housing the Church of God. With the high ceilings of Gravity, the communal gatherings, and euphoria-inducing rock alters one might wonder which space feels more spiritual.
But, before I made these observations, I had to get there.
“Why are there never signs?,” I wondered to myself, while peevishly looking this way and that.
On the walk from the tram, I had passed a woman in a bright yellow jumper. She was now coming down the sidewalk. “Excuse me, do you know where the gym is?,” I asked. She looked ready to quicken her pace, pretend to ignore me. But her fatal flaw was to make eye contact and she offered a quizzical smile.
“Sorry, what?” She said, turning her ear towards me.
“Do you know where the climbing gym is? Rock climbing?” I mimed reaching up towards holds, which probably looked rather like trying to vigorously ascend a ladder, or doggy paddling the air.
“Oh, it’s this way!,” she exclaimed, and we trotted off making small talk.
Turns out we were both getting back into climbing after a two month break, with mixed success in readjusting to the high life. Out front, two-story tall glass windows vibrated to upbeat indie music and unveiled a luminescent picture frame of athletic looking people athleting about on the walls.
She showed me where to check in then sidled up to a friend.
Superlative one: Community
“It’s hard to walk around Dublin without running into someone from Gravity,” Zoe, a climbing instructor manning the front desk, notes. She’s been there since it opened in 2010 (or was it 2011? She can’t remember), first as a member and now as staff.
“That seems like a good indicator for a strong community,” I offer.
The gym is deep, cavernous. Chalk dust hangs in the air and mixes with the fluorescent lights sparkling above. Conversation hums. There’s an energy about.
People smile, jokes fly (as do people performing dynos), and you can tell everyone is genuinely enjoying themselves.
“It’s sort of become a social space that’s beyond just a climbing wall. And there are groups that have formed here that have become more than just friends that climb together.”
“It’s definitely something more than what it is, somehow.”
“How so?,” I ask
Zoe takes a breath to think, “It’s pretty varied [the people], which is what I like about climbing; It’s an activity that brings everyone together rather than an identity, so you get all sorts who are just here to do the same thing: Climbing.”
And that leads to variety, unexpected emergent properties, marriage. Zoe would tell me how several couples have gotten hitched and are now having kids. I wondered if the happy duos finished their gym session then went next door to tie the knot, all giddy on endorphins and post-climb sugary protein bars.
Superlative two: Route-setting
Gravity’s website suggests, “It’s all about exceptionally good route-setting.” I’d agree.
The climbing is diverse, though it centers around crimps, edges, slopers, pinches and technical movements at the higher grades. It’s not heavy on dynos or acrobatic style. With that said, the routes are interesting and coax the brain into problem-solving mode. There is quite a bit of vertical wall space, along with a few caves and overhanging sections, which allows for diversity in style.
Zoe adds, “The setting is very good. That is something they’ve”—the owners—”always put special emphasis on.”
“Going from indoors to outdoors, people who have started here… [and who have transitioned to] outside, it’s remarkable to see how quickly they take to rock, and the technique. I think the style here translates well to climbing outdoors.”
“Do you think this is intentional?,” I inquire.
“The owners were climbers for years and years in Ireland, and I think they were very tapped into what the community needed and what they needed out of a gym. They’ve always consistently been able to make it a really nice atmosphere.”
They’ve got the basics covered: A small training area with a hang board, systems board and a literal handful of weights (kettlebells). There is a large common area ala cafe seating on a veranda, looking out onto the climbing. You can purchase assorted snacks, such as mega-sized protein oatmeal bars, shakes, and coffee. They also have a small retail footprint with pants, shoes, shirts, and other odds and ends.
One thing I hadn’t seen before, they feature a set traverse route that runs the length of the gym. Zoe shares, “One of the guys who climbs regularly here offered to sponsor it. He’s with Foil Arms & Hog (a comedy group).”
“They are fantastic.” She laughs. “He offered to sponsor it because he really likes traversing.”
For beginners, there are drop-in group coaching sessions on Mondays.
How to Get There:
Buses (13, 69) and the Red Line on the tram are easy to pick up in downtown (Temple Bar/ Trinity College area) and stop less than a 5 minute walk from the gym.
Walk into the compound, past Rascals Brewing and it will be up on the right.
6a, Goldenbridge Industrial Estate, Inchicore, Dublin 8, Ireland
Tuesday 12–10PM Tuesday 12–10PM
9 EUR / 10.24 USD (8 EUR / 9.10 USD off-peak*) + 5 EUR / 5.69 USD for first-time registration.
Shoes are 3.5 EUR / 4 USD to rent.
*Peak time is 5pm to 10pm Monday to Friday and all day at Weekends.
Feature photo courtesy of Gravity Climbing Centre