Monday, January 7, 2013

Stelly's secondary school and Boulders climbing gym in Victoria

I was recently whisked away from work and home by my visiting parents who wanted to see the island. At the end of our trip together, travelling by wagon, we ended up in Victoria, BC which happens to be the home of the infamous 'Boulders' at Stelly's secondary school.

I heard about Stelly's from the competitive youth climbers in Toronto, and then again when I was researching Canadian climbing education for an article written in Gripped Magazine last year . I cannot believe what a gem this school is, and how much the students and climbers of Saanich and Victoria owe to Kimanda Jarzebiak.
“We wanted to meet our current demands and give Canada what it needed to get to the next level of international competition.” Says Jarzebiak, the Chair of the Board of the Boulders Climbing Gym Society, as well as the founder of the Boulders Climbing Academy at Stelly’s Secondary School. In January 2011, the Central Saanich, BC district school board approved the proposal. 

The climbing gym, known as 'The Boulders', is a not-for-profit that has been supporting youth and disability programs since 2005. In 2008, their programs had outgrown their facility. Along with a waiting list for all of the after school, they were also starting to produce top youth climbers. 

Today, the facility is more than double the size with competition-approved 60ft overhung walls and 15m official speed wall. The new gym is one of two facilities in North America capable of hosting the world youth championship, and will be doing so in August of 2013. It facilitates over 90 participants in after school programs, public access and also provides a climbing academy for 30 secondary school students.

The gym is organized so that a bouldering cave, and short top rope routes are in one section of the gym and through a different set of doors you enter a lead climbing environment, with 60 overhanging routes set, anchor clips hanging from the roof and a speed wall which is set up for international competitions.

For 13 dollars I rented a harness, was tested for top rope and lead climbing abilities and was let loose to enjoy the space. It is a welcoming atmosphere and the staff are all very enthusiastic about climbing and devoted to providing safe experiences. The climbers in the lead room were strong, but not intimidating. It was obvious that everyone knew how lucky they were to have this state of the art facility.

 One staff member who gave me my top rope test had been the youngest person to be certified with the ACMG climbing gym instructor (level one). He plans to continue through his levels as he continues through his highschool education at Stelly's. Another instructor was excited to tell me that preparations for the youth world cup in summer 2013 have already begun. 

Needless to say, the gym lived up to every expectation I had. I am excited that Canada is progressing towards a more well rounded and integrated perspective of rock climbing. I am also very interested to see what opportunities like this will do for the mind sets and motivation of future generations.

A view of the lead climbing roof at The Boulders.

For more information and photos check out The Boulders' website HERE

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