Despite Portland’s unseasonably mild winter so far, Mother Nature hasn't given climbers much of a chance to conquer nearby climbs. So whether you’re waiting for the right weather to scale Beacon Rock or have your eye on a more challenging climb at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon later this year, stay in shape and learn a few tricks at one of the myriad climbing gyms in the Portland area.
The Gym for All Skill Levels
Whether you want to learn to climb or want to stay in shape for the upcoming season, Stoneworks Climbing Gym in Beaverton offers something for everyone. Stoneworks doesn't grade its routes, which encourages novices to try routes they might otherwise avoid and advanced climbers to challenge themselves with unpredictable routes. Other features include 34-foot climbing and lead walls, highball bouldering, and auto belays.
The Veteran Presence
For more than 25 years, Portland Rock Gym has offered a mixture of rope climbing and bouldering, top-rope routes, and overhanging lead walls for climbers of all experience levels. The inner Northeast Portland gym is in the midst of an expansion that, when completed, will boast 12,000 square feet of tall rope climbing, 20,000 square feet of short-rope instructional climbing, 3,000 square feet of bouldering, and a 17-foot high-ball bouldering feature, plus a yoga studio and weight training room.
The Bouldering Behemoth
The Circuit offers more than 1,000 boulder problems at its three gyms throughout the Portland area, catering primarily to fans of bouldering, as well as rope climbers looking to improve their strength and technique. The gym also boasts a systems wall, campus board, hang boards, cardio machines, and a full weights area to keep climbers fit throughout the off-season. The local chain’s latest outpost opened in August in Tigard and boasts a two-room yoga studio, as well. “Yoga has such incredible benefits to bouldering—especially in balance, flexibility, and mindfulness—and we are really excited to offer a space where folks can go to get that," said Chloe Mandell, marketing manager for The Circuit.
The New Kid on the Block
Planet Granite Portland opened in November 2014, giving Northwest Portland its first rock-climbing gym (and the largest of the chain’s four West Coast gyms). So far, it appears to have been worth the wait: Planet Granite boasts route walls up to 55 feet high, with more than 150 routes and 18 cracks to challenge climbers. A large bouldering area promises more than 200 problems, a 40-foot ramp, and an 18-foot highball boulder. Planet Granite also focuses on off-season strength training with a yoga studio, cardio equipment, and a specialized training area with a campus board, system board, and other training tools that target a climber’s individual needs, according to Stephanie Ko Pound, senior director of marketing.
The Realistic Experience
The ClubSport Ascent Climbing Center bills itself as hosting the largest indoor climbing facility in Oregon, and it’s easy to see why: The center’s walls are 25- to 45-feet tall and offer more than 11,000 square feet of textured climbing surface for top-roping, lead climbing, and bouldering alike. Climbers can tackle cracks, slabs, features, and various degrees of overhanging terrain, all of which provides a challenging and realistic experience—even in the middle of winter, according to membership director Amy Freeman.
The Vancouver Alternative
The Source Climbing Center opened in late 2011 in downtown Vancouver, offering local climbers an alternative to bustling Portland gyms. It might be worth the trip for climbers seeking variety; the gym offers more than 50 routes on walls up to 36 feet tall, more than 60 boulder problems ranging from V0 to V10, and 2,300 feet of lead climbing terrain with up to 40 lead routes, according to co-founder Michael Lary. The Source offers a true-to-grade course setting, preparing climbers for the same grades outdoors.