Gravity Climbing Centre Dublin, Ireland: Where Climbers Meet

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. 

Photo source: Gravity Climbing

“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.

Vibe:

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.


Climbing:

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.” 

It shows.

Can you make the grade?


Amenities:

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.

Address:

6a, Goldenbridge Industrial Estate, Inchicore, Dublin 8, Ireland
Google Maps


Info:

Monday 12–10PM 
Tuesday 12–10PM Tuesday 12–10PM 
Wednesday 12–10PM
Thursday 12–10PM 
Friday 12–10PM 
Saturday 10AM–8PM 
Sunday 10AM–8PM 

Price: 
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.


Resources:

Website
Facebook page



Feature photo courtesy of Gravity Climbing Centre

SKAI Urban Crag: The Boulderer’s Gym in Cluj Napoca, Romania

SKAI is a play on the English word “sky” and the Romanian “scaiete,” (Cirsium vulgare) a common thistle that sprouts a vibrant pink and purple rosette, and which is one of the most bountiful nectar producers across Europe. 

Just like the high-stemmed namesake plant, SKAI Urban Crag offers climbers bounteous boulder problems in their pursuit of gravity defying dynos and pumpy high-flying stunts.

Tudor Cristea, 27, is one of three co-founders and he chatted with me about the gym. He looks like a Romanian Chris Sharma complete with shaggy locks and just-throw-it-on beanie. He relayed his interest in starting the gym, and what makes it unique, “The routes in our gym are very bouldery [in contrast to the other gyms in Cluj], not so classical with crimps. We use more volumes, and for the crux we use boulder moves.”

The gym itself is flowering in its second year, just like the scaiete.

Vibe:

Upon entering the space you feel right away what they are about: The place is bright and radiates with popping neon colors. It is welcoming and attractive.

Actually, because it’s in an industrial park, and tucked around the back of the complex (without signage guiding the way), it feels like you’re descending upon a secret pop-up shop. It has a sort of underground coolness.

Rounding the corner in the parking lot, the one-person trailer across from the entrance is a giveaway that dirtbags are nearby. Once inside, the lounge area is a mix of urban-industrial chic, handmade elements, succulents (because of course), those lights with dangly wires, and a big fridge of beer (nice).

Each time I went there were throngs of devotees climbing about, and people were friendly—in fact, climbers actually came up to me to chat (which Poland, if you’re reading this, try taking some notes). There was a mix of beginners to more advanced (for example, a guy was climbing a 6a route, lead, without using his feet at all), and plenty of space and problems for everyone.

Membership is made up of a core group, according to Cristea, “Our customers are very, very good friends with us. With our crew, we are about 40 people. We all go together to go climbing, outdoor or indoor.”

They often travel together, having recently visited Berlin just to check out the gyms. You don’t hear that every day. 

Bouldery lead routes

Climbing:

The routes on the lead wall cluster around 6a-6b and 7a. There are typically 30-40 routes at any given time and only three top rope lines permanently set. I hadn’t seen this before, and liked the idea of emphasizing lead. The walls are 10m high.

Upstairs there’s a big systems board and an inclined wall chock full of holds if you’re there to train, and just train, and then train some more.

Amenities:

Yoga, hangboards, rings, TRX, campus board, some free weights, resistance bands, a clean changing room and shower.

How to Get There:

The only downside is that the gym is a bit far from the center of the city. The 31 and M31 bus will get you there from downtown. Uber is available in Cluj Napoca if you want to make it super easy on yourself.

Once you enter the gate, walk to the back right corner of the park to find the gym.

Address:

Calea Baciului 1-3, Cluj-Napoca 40023
Google maps

Info:

Hours:
Monday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Tuesday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Wednesday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Thursday 10AM–1PM, 4–10PM
Friday 4–10PM
Saturday 3–7PM
Sunday 3–7PM

Price: 30 lei for a day pass (about $7.16 or 6.32 EUR)

Resources:

SKAI Urban Crag website
Facebook page

Cirsium vulgare. Photo source: Wikipedia

Boulder Istanbul: Your Favorite Neighborhood Gym in Istanbul, Turkey (Climbing Gym Review)

Boulder Istanbul is your neighborhood climbing gym on the Asian side.

It’s akin to your favorite little cafe down the street, full of character and familiar faces. Or it’s the climbing set-up you wish you had in your two-car garage, just for you and your buddies.

The Vibe:

Make no mistakes, this is an “old school” gym and one of the first in Istanbul.

This place has a slightly gritty feel which adds to its well-worn charm. The holds are a little polished, rubber streaks mark the walls, and the paint has faded from years of use.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for places like this, perhaps because I got my start at the small-town gym in New Paltz, NY (imprinting matters, I guess). I enjoy places and people that have an edge to them, that have been around the block, that have a story to tell.

No gym is complete without a community: The staff and regular climbers are welcoming, friendly, and helpful. They are happy to get to know you, share beta, and connect you with other climbers in the area if you’re looking to go outside.

boulder istanbul wall.jpg
Photo source: facebook.com/boulderistanbul

The Climbing:

Let’s be clear: This is good climbing.

The settings are safe, the mats are sufficient, and the routes are interesting enough (if somewhat limited).

It is bouldering-only with 9 walls ranging from just-less-than-vertical incline to 45 degree overhang. The routes trend towards reachy moves and a pumpy style. You will get stronger by climbing here, though you won’t necessarily become a master technician.

Given the set-up, it is better for newer climbers. The routes require attentive foot placement, practice with smearing, and the occasional bridge or heel hook in order to conserve arm strength. Many moves give beginner climbers a taste of the strength and coordination required for outdoors, while also forcing them to push past some sketchy-seeming maneuvers.

boulder istanbul holds.jpg
Photo source: facebook.com/boulderistanbul

With that said, more advanced climbers looking to focus on crimps and quarter-dollar footholds would do well to look elsewhere. The hardest routes are quite difficult, but they are all featured on the overhanging sections so you will be training a very particular style of climbing. They would do well to add more balance-based routes and finger-pocket holds.

If you are looking to improve your strength and aerobic endurance, or want to get started on your climbing journey, I’d highly recommend coming here.

Amenities:

You get solid climbing, two hangboards, a small campus board, and not much else (but really, what more do you need?).

For beginners, they offer shoes and chalk bags for rent, as well as personal training.

They also sell coffee if you need a pick-me-up.

How to Get There:

Boulder Istanbul is located in Kadiköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Here is the location in google maps.

From the European side, you can take the Marmary to Ayrılık Çeşmesi station (then it’s about a 15 minute walk from there) or you can take the ferry to Kadıköy İskelesi (which is just three blocks from the gym).

Resources:

Boulder Istanbul website (with the basic info you need in English)

If you would like to climb outdoors near Istanbul, check out my review of Ballikayalar, the best climbing within an hour of the city.