Change is afoot at the longtime climbing gym in town formerly known as The Inner Wall. Under new ownership by rock climber Christopher Scott, the space has been transformed into “BC’s New Paltz Climbing Gym,” with the focus on the New Paltz rock climbing community. While Scott will continue to offer the afterschool activities and birthday parties for youth that the gym has always hosted, those programs will allow him to fulfill his main goal, which is to provide local rock climbers with “the place they deserve,” he says. “Climbing is a culture, especially in this town, and at the end of the day, I plan to cater to the core climbers who have a passion for rock climbing. We’ll be that place where a beginner can come in and rent climbing shoes and have fun, but the seasoned veteran – who owns 20 pairs of climbing shoes and has climbed all over the world – will be able to come in and have a challenge.”
The space has been given a facelift, cleaned up and brightened up with fresh paint, and its climbing walls equipped with more inspiring routes that Scott plans to change up frequently to keep those core climbers interested. “The height in the space is limited, but it’s plenty tall as a bouldering facility. Climbers can work on different training techniques and enjoy a sense of community at the same time.”
Even though he’s only 35, Scott has been a climber himself for 20 years. His expertise in route setting will be put to use in his gym creating “bouldering problems” that climbers will find challenging. “My job as a route setter is to create a sort of ‘vertical dance’ that you have to figure with your body and your mind. Otherwise, it’s not something that really captures your heart.”
In a climbing gym, Scott explains, “You’re activating your mind just as much as your body, figuring out what the bouldering problems are. And you fail more often than you succeed; that’s just the way it goes. It might take a day to figure out a route, or it might take weeks. You find peace in the struggle, and then when you do succeed, you’re happy for about three minutes, and then you’re on to the next problem.”
The problem might involve physical limitations the climber has to overcome – simply not being strong enough to follow that course – or it could be a strategy issue in sussing out the route to take.
But beyond that, Scott adds, “it’s not enough to have just interesting movement; you want to build an aesthetic into your routes that is visually pleasing to the eye. One of the big changes I’ve made in the space is going monochromatic.” Historically, route setters in climbing gyms have used colored tape to mark a climbing path, he says, but the trend in the industry now is to eliminate the colored tape and use a single color of holds, arranged in a visually pleasing manner to give the climber a more challenging experience along with a pleasing aesthetic.
Climbing gyms also offer the opportunity to get exercise in a very different way than you would doing bench presses, for example, says Scott, “because you really have to move your body around in a lot of interesting positions.”
Scott will be a real hands-on owner and operator of BC’s New Paltz Climbing Gym. “This is my full-time job to be here and make it a functional rock climbing gym,” he says.
The name “BC” indicates the core values he has in his business plan – better climbing, better community – but also stand for a longtime nickname Chris Scott has had: “Big Chris.” (The handprint in the logo is a humorous nod to his oversize hands, he notes.) And “BC’s” works, too, for rock climbers who have a tendency to reduce the name of their favorite climbing spot down to a few initials, he adds.
Scott is originally from the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York, but it didn’t take him long as a rock climber to discover the New Paltz area. He first arrived in town in 2002, drawn to the climbing, and ended up attending SUNY New Paltz, where he double-majored in history and sociology. After graduation, Scott headed out on a series of long, seasonal road trips devoted to climbing adventures, supporting himself by working as a freelance route setter at nearly 30 different climbing gyms along the way. But every fall, he’d make his way back to New Paltz and the Gunks, replenishing his resources by working at Rock & Snow.
At one point Scott moved to Boulder, Colorado for a few years and most recently was living down in Brooklyn and the Queens area, where he worked as the senior route setter in a Long Island City climbing gym for 4,500 members ranging from small kids to adults. But New Paltz has always exerted that pull on him, and wanting to move back to the area anyway, when Scott found out in a casual conversation that The Inner Wall was for sale, that’s all he had to hear.
As immersed now in the details of running a small business as he is in developing his plan to give the New Paltz climbing community a quality experience, Scott is working long days to pull everything together. He’d like to develop a community of climbers from the college, and he brought in a children’s education consultant, Liz Malmstedt, to advise him on best practices for the afterschool programs he’s offering to kids in grades K-5, and the Adventure Club program for middle-schoolers. There’s also the possibility of putting together a youth climbing team for kids who are serious about climbing and wish to participate in competitive events.
The afterschool programs are currently offered for grades K-2 on Tuesday and Thursday and grades 3-5 on Monday and Wednesday. Buses from Duzine and Lenape elementary schools drop the kids off right at the gym on Main Street. There’s a 3-1 ratio of kids to instructors at this time, so the participants get a lot of individual attention and support.
As for the local climbing community, Scott says he’s already getting a lot of support despite having only launched the business in January. A bouldering-only day pass costs $12, and a one-month membership $52. A three-month membership costs $132 or climbers can purchase a 10-punch pass for $100.
BC’s New Paltz Climbing Gym is located behind the Rite Aid at 234 Main Street. Hours are Monday through Friday from 2-9 p.m., Saturday noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. More information is available by calling (845) 255-ROCK (7625), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bcclimbinggym.com/.