Climbing the walls the goal for gym

3701 Presidential Parkway, Atlanta, 30340. 404-467-2170. www.ssclimbing.com.

By Anna Swindle

For the AJC

The first words that come to mind when people think of Atlanta don’t tend to be “rock climbing,” but Daron Pair and Daniel Luke hope to change that. When their new gym -- with 30,000 square feet of climbing surface -- opens in late May or early June, Atlanta will become home to the nation’s largest indoor rock climbing facility.

And they’re not wasting any time putting their walls to use. In July, Stone Summit Climbing and Fitness Center will host the Junior Nationals climbing competition, meaning about 400 kids ranging in age from 8 to 19 will flood the gym, along with their families and friends.

But Stone Summit is by no means limited to seasoned climbers.

Pair said he and Luke want to national and international competitions, even a world championship. “But we incorporated things that make this a gym for everyone from the beginner to the intermediate to the expert climber,” he said.

In fact, the facility even caters to nonclimbers. The upper level will contain a workout area, complete with elliptical machines, treadmills, exercise bikes and a weight room. Users can join Stone Summit for a flat rate and have access to everything from the climbing wall to the exercise classes (spinning, yoga) to the cardio machines and weights. Pair says he hopes to eventually have 2,000 to 3,000 members.

But the climbing areas are definitely the main feature of Stone Summit, and hours of careful planning went into crafting every inch of the walls.

Pair, who works in commercial real estate, teamed up with Luke when Pair’s children became interested in climbing. Luke coached the kids and, over the years, the two men visited climbing facilities nationwide as Pair’s children competed in the sport. They began to discuss what their ideal gym would look like, first in an abstract way but then more seriously. And the result is Stone Summit -- a gym that combines many of the traits Pair and Luke admired in other facilities.

Instead of walls that are made to look like real rock, Stone Summit’s main climbing area features brightly colored holds and sharply angled walls -- not at all attempting to visually imitate nature. They enlisted the help of the Bulgarian company Walltopia to construct the varying surfaces. “Most of what you see today in gyms is made out of a stucco product, so it’s gray,” Pair said. “We were trying to get as much natural light in the facility and we wanted bright colors to pop at you and we wanted something different.”

And perhaps the walls will inspire nonclimbers to give the sport a try.

“This is a fantastic fitness opportunity,” Luke said. “Many people come in here so they don’t have to do the same mundane exercise of lifting weights. Instead, they can come in here and unlock these puzzles, and at the same time they build a very lean muscle. It’s not going to bulk you up.”

For newcomers to the sport, Stone Summit has established several options for getting started. Special areas can be reserved for corporate events, birthday parties and the like. A climbing coach will assist the group, making sure everyone is safe and enjoys the experience. Another option, for a smaller group or individual, is to reserve an hour of time for up to four people with an instructor for $25 total. The teacher will go over the basics, starting with the equipment and including, of course, a base climb.

“The cost of entry needs to be affordable enough that people will come back,” Pair said. “It will take a customer coming in several times to build that interest.”

Building interest is the goal, Pair said.

“The gym’s spaced out well, so anyone who’s looking for a place to climb will be able to do it, which is good,” he said. “It exposes more people to climbing, which is what we’re trying to do -- grow the climbing community so people realize it’s a sport, and you can do it as an alternative to biking and running. It’s a fitness activity, and hopefully people start to view it that way.”

Other indoor climbing options in Atlanta:

Atlanta Rocks! Intown

1019 Collier Road N.W., Suite A, Atlanta 30318. 404-351-3009. atlantarocks.com.

Hours:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 3-10 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Saturday: noon-8 p.m.

Sunday: noon-6 p.m.

Rates:

Monday-Friday (no staff assistance, for those who know how to belay), $15; weekends, $17

Term memberships: one month, $85; three months, $215; six months, $360; one year, $565

Novice climb: $25 per person

Intro class: $35

Adrenaline Climbing

460 Brogdon Road, No. 100, Suwanee, 30024. 770-271-1390. adrenalineclimbing.com.

Hours:

Monday, Wednesday: 4-11 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Friday: 4-8 p.m.

Saturday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday: 1-6 p.m.

Rates:

Day passes: weekdays, $14; weekends, $16

Climbing classes: $10-$35

Membership: $50/month

Wall Crawler Rock Club

1522 Dekalb Ave., No. 2, Atlanta, 30307. 404-371-8997. wallcrawlerclimbing.com.

Hours:

Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday: noon-8 p.m.

Rates:

Day pass: $15

Intro to climbing: $30 for 1-hour session

Membership: $45/month

Escalade Rock Climbing

3694 Kennesaw South Industrial Drive N.W., Kennesaw, 30144. 770-794-1575. escaladegym.com.

Hours:

Monday-Friday: 2-10 p.m.

Saturday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunday: noon-6 p.m.

Rates:

Daily pass (without guide): $15

Daily pass (with guide): $20

Membership: one month, $70; three months, $175; six months, $300; one year, $500

Climbing lingo:

Belay: managing the rope with a harness (on the ground below the climber)

Top rope: a route with ropes already affixed at the top

Lead climbing: an alternative to top rope, where the climber clips into anchor points along the route (more similar to outdoor climbing scenarios)

Bouldering: the practice of climbing on boulders, generally closer to the ground, including big moves (for the more experienced climber)

Chalk bag: attached to the climber’s belt to keep the hands dry during the climb

Climbing shoe: has a sticky, rubber sole and should fit the foot like a slipper

Hold: a place to hang on while ascending

Jib: a small foothold

Jug: a large, easy-to-grasp hold

Crimpers: a tiny hold just large enough to be gripped with the fingertips

Yosemite Decimal System: a numerical system for rating the routes based on difficulty (Stone Summit’s routes are rated using this scale)

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.