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

The Best Climbing near Istanbul – Ballikayalar, Turkey aka the sweet, sweet Honey Crag! (Trip Report)

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Photo by the author

Overview

Ballikayalar (or Honey Crag in Turkish) is the best outdoor climbing near Istanbul.

It is about an hour drive from the city of 15 million and consists of over 70 routes on limestone. The lines range from 7 to 35m, and most fall within a difficulty rating of 5.10 to 5.12 (or VI to IX- in UIAA). Many of the older routes were originally climbed as trad, and now that they are bolted the line naturally follow the cracks. There are two main sectors, the Left and the Right, as in, on the Left or Right of the valley (when peering into it).

To climb here is to steep in the history of rock climbing in Turkey. Ballikayalar is one of the original crags to be developed in the country. By sheer luck, I had the opportunity to climb with one of the pioneers: Emre has been climbing here for over 33 years and has many first and second ascents to his name.We were joined by Sevki, a big wall climber who has spent time at Yosemite. Fun fact: He met Alex Honnold there… on El Cap!… While Alex was free solo down-climbing!Overall, it’s a beautiful valley with a babbling brook running down the middle. After spending nearly a month in Istanbul, this was a desperately needed respite from a city sorely lacking in nature. Oddly, Balli sits on the edge of an industrial area. Look one way and you see factories spewing smoke. Turn around and it’s nature at it’s finest.

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Photo by the author

Suggested Routes

I am a beginner and stuck to the lower grades. Sevki and Emre showed me some of the “classics”, which had been developed in 1987 (older than I am!).

Percussion: VI/VI+. Originally climbed as a trad route (by Emre and others), this follows a thin line on the inner side of a cave. It involves lean-backs, bridging your feet wider than expected, and big reach ups. It is quite pumpy.

Davul (Drum): VI+: Emre had the first ascent on this one. This is pumpy, featuring big, juggy holds, bigger reaches and a lot of lean-backs. Drum and Percussion are meant as brothers of sorts, and their names allude to the pounding your arms take when climbing them.

 

How to Get There

The easiest way is by car. Take the E80 or D100 East towards Ankara. The closest town is Gebze.Public Transport: TheCrag.com and RockClimbing.com have suggestions for how to get there by bus. I won’t pretend to give advice here since I didn’t try this myself.

When to Go

Istanbul and the surrounding area to the East has mild weather in the Winter (we had 50 F/ 10 C in late December). Reading other people’s accounts, the area is climbable year round.

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Photo by the author

We started in a corner on the Left Sector away from the sun. The closest area to the entrance of the Left Sector faces the East and was receiving direct sun when we arrived. Around the bend, the sectors stayed in the shade until mid-afternoon. It had rained two days before and the routes were still wet in the shade. The Right Sector receives sun nearly all day.

Supplies

You can pick up food and snacks in Gebze. There are several bodegas and cafes right in town.If you need climbing gear, Istanbul is unfortunately lacking in this regard. I only found two shops that sell climbing shoes (K2 Outdoor and Everest Outdoor). Atlas Outdoor had some draws and biners. Decathalon also sells some gear, but I didn’t check out the selection.

Resources:

Gear Review: Used Scarpa X Climbing Shoes

I did it, I did it, I did it!


I am so stoked to receive my first piece of climbing gear to review for this blog from my brother who didn’t want them anymore.


They are Scarpa Force X’s. Or maybe they are La Sportiva Katana (laces)…?


Erm, no. Wait. No. They are assuredly Scarpa Force X’s.


(But hey, La Sportiva, if you are reading this, I would test the Katana (laces) if you had some lying around… PM me!).


climbing shoes.png
Uh, uh, uh. Which one is the Scarpa Force X?!?


Anywho, I am honored that Scarpa thought so highly of my editorial prowess to give me a pair of shoes distributes in the U.S. so my brother could buy them at a second hand gear shop in New Paltz, NY. I am more honored that he decided to give up climbing a few months later and leave them in the closet for me to swipe. Honored, I say!


Now now, let us not bury the lede:


The Scarpa Force Xs are the highest rated climbing shoes ever on this blog.

You seem surprised? Let me enlighten you.


To be diligent and lend a critical eye to this review, I will focus on five carefully selected criteria: Price, comfort, durability, performance, and price.


Price: Free!

Can’t beat that. Next.


Score: 5/5


Comfort: Super!

They are a size or two too large. After an initial break in period (for my feet, not the shoes), I can wear these for hours at a time without discomfort.


The heel is padded, and I may have a low-volume heel (read, small heel), and uh, they are too big, so when heel hooking they sometimes feel on the verge of slipping off.


BUT, they feel quite comfortable when they are shimmying away from my heel!


I wear these for hours straight at the gym, in the shower, and to bed — they are great in all domains.


Score: 5/5


Durability: They still work!

I’ve used them for over a year. And STILL NO HOLES.


Maybe I’m not climbing hard enough, you say? Well screw you!


This is my review and I say these are darn tough. My little bombers of climbing shoes… they once survived a nuclear bomb test, I’ll have you know.


Okay that’s not true.


Heel of Scarpa Force X


The rubber is starting to detach around the heel, meanwhile the sole is noticeably worn, especially at the seems.


All in all, for 1 year + a few months + 0-3 years of wear (indeterminate length of time via the pre-prior owner) they seem to be holding up well.


Score: 4/5


Performance: Good enough!

In the year that I’ve been climbing, these have me sending V6s and low 5.11s (indoors) and 5.10 outside.


They have enough grip for overhangy routes and toe hooks, though I do not always trust the heel. They smear well, but seriously lack edging ability at this stage (which is an impediment at higher grades). As a counter-point: That velcro! Still velcro-y.


These also perform admirably while belaying, keeping me right where I’m standing. Top notch.


Score: 3/5


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Apparently new pairs have an edge. Photo from bergfreunde.no


Price: Still free!

Can’t beat that. Next.


Score: 5/5


My Scarpa Force Xs


Total Score: 22/25

There you have it folks, my used pair of Scarpa Force Xs are officially our highest rated climbing shoes (ever) on this blog.


(Backed by objective, hard science.)


Like I said, I am stoked about my first piece of gear!