When the Bighorn Summit climbing gym closed in the fall of 2019, many new-to-the-sport enthusiasts found themselves wanting more.
They had just gotten started on the multi-colored walls, challenging their strength, mental fitness and flexibility.
Chris Newton started climbing about two years ago when he discovered Bighorn Summit, which was started by Johnny Crider and Justin Case. Newton began taking his children to the gym and they became involved in the youth climbing team.
“We were hooked and it was a really cool thing to see how supportive the climbing community was of each other and especially how supportive they were of getting the youth involved,” Newton said.
When the gym closed and members of the climbing community began brainstorming ways to keep a gym for their sport, representatives of the YMCA pitched including a climbing wall in the remodel of the Y’s space.
“The more we thought about that, the more it became apparent that it could be a really good fit for the climbers, the youth and the Y,” Newton said.
If done properly, a climbing wall at the YMCA could provide climbers a place to train, learn from each other and connect with the community. It could also grow youth involvement in climbing.
Parker Wenos, who manages the resident camp and junior high programs at the Sheridan County YMCA, said he’s fairly new to the local climbing community, but has enjoyed learning the activity.
Wenos noted that climbing can have some big barriers for newcomers — particularly around access and quality instruction.
“There are plenty of youth and adults who would at the very least like to try climbing but don’t have the knowledge or access to the bare-bones gear to get started,” Wenos said. “The installation of a climbing wall at the Y will knock down both of those barriers by providing a safe and controlled environment for new climbers to get started.”
For experienced climbers, it will create a training space for the winter when it is too cold to climb outside.
He added that many local residents don’t realize the quality of climbing in the area. Some of the popular climbing crags are located just off popular trails — which means families often see people making their way up routes in Piney Creek or other areas and stop to watch.
Wenos sees the partnership with the climbing community developing naturally as the YMCA adds introductory courses as well as “gym to crag” classes.
For youth, in particular, Wenos sees the sport providing the opportunity to learn new skills, confront fears and instill a sense of accomplishment.
As the YMCA continues to grow, its connection with athletic communities in the Sheridan area provide new opportunities for growth and development.