From before the beginning, Climb Cleveland was as much about community as it was about climbing. I get choked up with gratitude writing this—because Climb Cleveland opened its doors in Tremont as I was emerging from a difficult period: I went in for the therapeutic and confidence-building effects of climbing, but what’s kept me coming back is the people. As every member knows, you are only a stranger once at Climb Cleveland; before long everyone knows your name, and you always have a bouldering buddy if you want one. During a recent session, one of our members commented, “This place has such an awesome vibe.” He explained that it feels friendly and supportive, never competitive or negative. It’s a place where you know you can get your workout in, and also leave feeling cheerier for having spent some time around members and friends.
Climb Cleveland grew out of a “bouldering co-op” culture—a network of personal climbing gyms in barns, garages, and basements in North East Ohio where local climbers would train and share stories (and notorious shenanigans). For those of us who have been climbing for years or decades, climbing gyms have been the places where we could find our tribe and trade tall tales of climbing adventures and near-misses we’ve experienced hundreds of feet up on some remote route. Gyms have also often been the first place we’d bring our friends to introduce them to something we love. And that’s the spirit in which Climb Cleveland was built.
The first member social (May 28) was in the basement due to rainy spring weather. But it was a fitting venue for the first gathering because this is where co-op members first congregated to climb and converse over 30 years ago. So now, new Climb-Cleveland-ers became part of the history and fabric of the place: an urban climbing society in an old Cleveland neighborhood and in the former Ukrainian-American building.
We now come together not only out of our love for climbing and yoga and dance, but also our fondness for place. About 30% of our members live in Tremont proper, and many more live on the near-west side within 10 minutes of 2190 Professor Street. But long-gone are the days when East-siders wouldn’t cross the river: we’re just 20 minutes from Cleveland Heights and Shaker, and members come from south of us as well. The Climb Cleveland rooftop is a place to gather in the camaraderie of climbing, with food and the Cleveland skyline.
In Climb Cleveland, we’ve all found a place “to go where everybody knows your name.” And we can be with our tribe.