BY MELANIE HOBGOOD
Tucked in a small corner of National Avenue sits a generic-looking building, maybe a warehouse or storage facility. Only a small sign planted in a patch of grass gives any indication to those passing by to the building’s purpose, that this little building holds one of Lexington’s best kept secrets: a climbing gym.
Most people don’t realize they have one of the premier sport climbing destinations in the eastern United States, if not the world, in their back yards – the Red River Gorge. Even fewer realize they have an excellent climbing facility right down the street that can help them break into this secret world.
Bluegrass Bouldering opened its doors in 2010, filling the void left by Climb Time, Lexington’s former climbing gym, which closed in 2003.
The gyms differ, however, with Bluegrass filling a slightly different niche than Climb Time. While Climb Time had roped climbing with tall walls, Bluegrass is a bouldering gym, characterized by shorter walls where ropes are not necessary. Instead of birthday parties, Bluegrass generally draws in a more dedicated climbing crowd.
The gym has three distinct walls: a vertical wall, 30 degrees and 45 degrees. While these don’t sound like difficult angles, they can be pretty unforgiving, offering a challenge to newcomers and veterans alike.
To supplement your climbing training, Bluegrass also has two treadwalls with a variety of angles that can be used by everyone to build up endurance. The upstairs of the building features four hangboards and H.I.T. strips to build finger strength, along with a system board to gain everything from core tension to grip strength. The area also has a foam mat for stretching and ab exercises. If you’re feeling froggy, there are some weight vests you can use to intensify your workout.
Intimidated yet? Don’t be. The gym is owned by experienced climber, Bram Bell, who wants everyone to feel welcome, regardless of experience or skill level. Bell has made it a point to offer beginner classes on Sunday nights to give newcomers guidance and teach them technique in a lower-stress environment than they may encounter during regular hours. “I’ve had women, middle age women, who have never climbed before, who come in and see these fit climbers, and turned around and walked out. It’s intimidating.”
“The gym’s greatest strength is its members. Advanced and beginners alike are cheered on when working a problem – a series of moves. Advice is offered freely on how to do something better or how to make a move work. Nothing makes you feel more accepted than a stranger congratulating you, giving helpful hints, or being just as frustrated with something as you are. Members are given a key card to climb 24/ 7 but there is an altogether different feeling while climbing during regular hours. It’s like being part of a small community. By and large, everyone is friendly and genuinely wants to see others succeed in the things they are working on.
Bluegrass has plans for expansion later this year. While the bigger space offers more climbing area, it also offers more opportunity. The new building would allow space for birthday parties and an area for beginners who may not feel comfortable around the more experienced climbers. The move also allows space for classes such as yoga.
The gym is open to non-members from 5pm to 9 pm every day, with day passes and shoe rental available . Memberships get you an access card, allowing you to climb 24/7.
For more information on Bluegrass Bouldering, check them out on Facebook or at bluegrassbouldering.com.
P.S. Still need an incentive to go? Most days, the heavenly scent of peanut butter wafts over from the Jif plant nearby. After a long workout, it’s the best smell in the world.
National Avenue, with easy access to downtown and the suburban corridors via both Winchester Road and Main Street, is an emerging industrial neighborhood that is regularly adding dining and retail options.