The Wall, Ukraine’s Most Modern Climbing Gym in Lviv

Photo source: The Wall

In 2015, Stanislav “Stas” Kleshnov took his place on the podium, waved to the crowd, and walked away from competition climbing as the Ukrainian champion.

For 25 years, this had been his life. The competitive spirit is marked in his sharp-features and stern look, which cracks with an occasional smirk or glint in his eye. His determined expression offers clues of the hard work it took to rise from the 10 year old kid who was inspired the first time he saw the limestone cliffs over the Black Sea. 

He knew then the sport was his escape from a life of mining or metallurgy, the likely paths for those from Donetsk. 

Climbing offered a way to see Europe after the dissolution of the USSR, and it exposed him to the training resources and gyms in other countries. For years Ukraine had a strong showing in international competition, from Olga Shalagina (1st, boulder), Olena Ryepko (1st, speed), and Maksym Styenkovyy (2nd place, speed), claiming medals as World Champions in 2005 to multiple podium placements across the three disciplines (speed, boulder, lead) through the early 2010s. Danyil Boldyrev remains one of the best in speed, but the country has seen its position passed in the other disciplines by the likes of Japan, Slovenia, China, and others.

Photo source: The Wall


In the end, Stas was proud of the national team’s accomplishments, but disappointed in the state of things and where they were headed. 

“The government just hasn’t invested in the sport like other countries. They didn’t build any modern gyms. They thought professional sportsmen would grow up in the private sector [at commercial gyms], but those gyms [here] aren’t designed for that. Ukraine is falling behind,” Stas demurs.

When he decided to hang up his boots, he wanted to leave a legacy beyond his medals. He used what he learned from international competition to open the country’s most modern climbing gym, The Wall, in Lviv, and to welcome others into the sport.

Stas says, “Before the modern gyms, you could only start climbing in a sports institute or in school. There was no other way: Only children’s school or a sports school. We make climbing more open.”

The Wall is taking an innovative approach borne out of necessity, some luck, and a rise in accessibility to the sport, such as climbing gear being more easily available and rising wages. 

Photo source: The Wall


The Gym:

Stas flashed a smile and greeted me in English, a language he hadn’t had to use in months. 

“Добрий день (dobryj den, ‘hello’),” I offered, and he showed me around the gym. 

Tucked into the side of an office building, The Wall offers a unique model that is perfectly suited for the small, but growing climbing community in Lviv. At 210 sq. meters (689 sq. ft.), it is tiny by conventional standards, but it suggests a viable “micro” gym for corporate and residential buildings as climbing continues to increase in popularity.

In Lviv, this size works just fine given the cost constraints (rent can be as expensive as in Germany), shifting cultural acceptance around paying for sport, and the gradual but developing interest in climbing in Ukraine. Still, The Wall welcomed over 1,200 unique climbers last year, most of whom tried the sport for the first time. 

Photo source: The Wall


The gym itself is bathed in light with floor to ceiling windows on three sides. The place is cozy without feeling cramped, and amazingly, it packs in over 50 routes up to 14 meters high. Given the strength of the instructors (many have competed on the national team), the setting is high quality, catering to the moderate range. There is a bouldering area with plenty of features to keep it interesting, and a workout space that doubles as a yoga room.

I spent August, 2018 in Lviv and this was my first dedicated time to top-roping. The instructors were personable and friendly, and were quick to offer encouragement in the form of yelling “давай-давай (davai davai, something like ‘let’s go!’)” at me.

It was a fantastic place to learn the ropes.


Amenities:

Yoga, hang boards, plyometric boxes, personal instruction, instructors who will happily belay you, changing room.

How to Get There:

Google Maps doesn’t show all the bus and tram options, so download the Eway app.

The 2 tram and the 29 bus will get you there.

Photo source: The Wall

Address:

Lviv, Geroiv UPA 72 housing 40, Technopark

Info:

A single day pass is between 100-120 UAH (~$3.80-$4.50), depending on what time of day you go, while a monthly pass is 1,700 UAH (~$64).

Phone number: +380 67 711 0496
(They are also responsive on Facebook Messenger)

Hours:
Monday-Friday: 3:00-9:00PM
Saturday, Sunday: 11:00AM-8:00PM

About Lviv:
Lviv is a fascinating city with a long and complicated history. It is on the western edge of Ukraine and is one of the cultural centers of the country. There is beautiful architecture from the Hapsburg days, vast parks throughout the city, and a lively tourist scene with many restaurants and bars.

Resources: 

The Wall website
Facebook page

Barn Door Hostel: Rumney’s First Hostel for Climbers

Barn Door Hostel is the first climber’s hostel in Rumney, NH, the sports climbing mecca of the northeast. Only two miles from the crags and sitting on 9 acres of old farmland, this European-styled hostel offers 20 bunk beds, private rooms and camping for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. You can join them for their launch party on May 25.


On Finding a Home in a Hostel

At 9AM, David Cook walked in to an old victorian in downtown San Diego and burst into tears. 

The sun was streaming through the windows in the foyer of the International Travelers House lighting up the pastel walls of Easter egg blue and neon orange. Portraits of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison smiled from above the door frame leading to the kitchen. David stood in place, overcome. He was on his own for the first time, ready to start a new life in the “go west, young man” refrain. So far things weren’t proceeding as planned. He was haggard, alone, and broke. 

“I walked in and James was there manning the desk, pancake splatter on his apron, rushing around cleaning, checking people in, etc. He saw me, dropped everything and gave me a great big bear hug,” David recalled. James was the owner of the recently opened hostel, the do it all man, and he saw someone in need.

“I was lost, ready to give up on this trip. I didn’t know where I’d go next.”

David had booked two nights to collect himself and figure out his plan. Those days would pass too quickly and he’d end up scrubbing toilets for a free night’s stay, and more time.

After about a week, David made a decision, “I want to be here permanently,” he told James. James replied, “that’s exactly what you should do!”

Weeks turned into months and eventually a year. By the end he was the manager of a new location, in charge of everything from how to bring guests across to Tijuana for beers to navigating the zoning regulations needed to install a new window in a commercial building.

The experience changed David. “It was very much, ‘you are always where you need to be.’ And it was the first time I felt that, it was magic.” He wanted to share this with others. 

Predator (5.13b). Photo source: @nicholastabis


On Creating Barn Door Hostel

“I wanted to create a hostel that would feel like home.”

David started the Barn Door Hostel to introduce climbers and non-climbers to the welcoming environment of a hostel. The endeavor became a family affair that grew from serendipity, hard work, and friendship.

It all started in San Diego, of course. Helene and David met as starry eyed dreamers who spoke of running their own hostel someday, but weren’t sure of where or how. 

Their dream kicked off extended travel as they went about looking for the right location only to end up empty handed. Eventually, the idea was put on hold as they settled into new jobs. David ended up at a rock climbing gym in Rhode Island working alongside his best friend, Dom Pascariello, the man who got David into the sport in the first place. The years wore on and David felt a sense of urgency growing. 

“I realized the gym was similar to a hostel, how people could meet with no judgment and become friends. I missed being an orchestrator, someone who brought people together. Eventually, the idea of starting a hostel was less of a dream and more of a must do.”

As a proud northeast climber, Dom suggested Rumney. They went scouting. Around this time, David’s parents, Dianne and Bob, were looking to retire and move back to New Hampshire. The pieces came together in the form of a family business.

Stinson Brook. Photo source: Barn Door Hostel.


The Timing Is Right

Hostels have been a rite of passage for European travel for decades and they act as international meeting spots and social centers when backpacking through a new city. They aren’t as popular in the U.S., but that’s changing (thankfully).

Climbers who get around might be familiar with climber-specific options in places like Geyikbayiri, San Vito Lo Capo, and El Chorro, as they offer cheap accommodation close to crags and a way to meet partners. Other niche hostels are opening as well, catering to surfers and digital nomads. 

Barn Door Hostel is an early adopter here in the U.S., following the likes of The Crash Pad in Chatanooga, TN, and to some extent, Miguel’s Pizza in the Red River Gorge, WV.

Plenty of room for camping. Photo source: Barn Door Hostel.


About Barn Door Hostel

The hostel used to be a chicken coop, a four-story tower of a coop, dating from the 1800s. As the times changed so has land usage, and four stories became two as it transitioned into an auto repair shop. Now it’s being repurposed for house and home.

Details:

  • 3 private rooms, each fit for two people. Two private rooms have standard full size beds. The third private has a bunk for those that do not wish to share the same bed but want the privacy.  One private bedroom has its own bathroom and closet.
  • Bunk rooms: One 6 person, one 8 person and one 10 person.
  • Camping (car, tent, hammock) on 9 acres.
  • Community bathrooms, kitchen, common area.
  • Enjoy the swimming hole in the front yard or hop into Stinson Brook after a long day of climbing. Access to the White Mountains right outside the front door.
  • 2 miles from the main crag, with smaller climbing areas close by.

You can book your stay here.


How to Get There

Address: 30 Stone Hill Rd Rumney NH 03266 USA

Rumney, NH is 2 hours north of Boston, MA via 93N. 2.5 hours west of Portland, ME via ME-25 W and NH-25 W. 3 hours north of Hartford, CT via I-91 N.


A Welcome Addition

For fans of climbing and friendly places to make friends, the Barn Door Hostel is a fantastic new spot to check out on your next trip to Rumney.