By Tori Hahn
Mission Valley is now home to the largest and tallest indoor rock-climbing gym in San Diego.
Mesa Rim’s Mission Valley gym was completed in November 2015 and is tucked away at 405 Camino Del Rio, just below Hillcrest. The company also operates another location in Mira Mesa at 10110 Mesa Rim Road and one in Reno, Nevada.
People of all ages and backgrounds come to Mesa Rim to test the walls, the tallest of which is 55 feet high in Mission Valley and 52 feet high in Mira Mesa.
In Mission Valley, the gym offers youth and recreational programs for children ages 4 to 18, but also attracts climbers in their late 60s. While some train to compete, many others take on the rock walls for the first time.
“It’s hard to break into climbing because it seems like it’s really hard if you don’t know the techniques and you’re not used to it,” said Alexis Diller, senior coordinator for promotional communications. “We help create a community that cheers you on, even if it’s your first time,”
Rosie Bates, head coach at Mesa Rim, describes it as a “lifestyle sport” in which anyone in the family can try. Loud, upbeat music fills the expansive space, and climbers laugh and joke in between their time on the wall.
But there’s more to Mesa Rim than just rock climbing. The center offers a wide range of facilities, including bouldering — an equipment-free style of climbing — training walls, treadmills, stationary bicycles, weights, weekly free fitness classes, yoga classes, a party room and a gift shop, all of which are included in a membership.
The gym even switches the placement of the walls’ handgrips every few weeks to keep the facility dynamic. Bates said the gym aims to help their members and visitors master the walls they work on, but also challenge them with new pathways.
Mesa Rim members have the option of attending more than 24 yoga classes throughout the week. Bates said most members — and usually more men than women — practice yoga in addition to climbing because of the added mental and physical discipline in balance.
“Climbing’s a really cool sport in that there’s just as many women almost as men pushing the limits and getting stronger, and so the gender roles in a lot of ways don’t play as big a part,” Bates said. “Going to yoga they just see as another aspect to … becoming a better climber.”
According to the 25-year-old coach, it’s normal for people who once considered themselves only a yogi or only a climber to eventually attempt the other to enhance their skills.
The rock-based sport has expanded immensely in recent years and might even make it to the 2020 Olympics, Bates said.
“The facilities have grown quite a bit … the climbing gyms have been popping up all over the country and [have gained] popularity because of that,” she said. “The youth kids programs are facilitating this growth of … a family environment, so the whole family will come in and climb.”
The growth is evident in the numbers: Three years ago, seven kids participated on Mesa Rim’s youth team, which has since grown to 90 kids in 2016, Diller said.
Indoor gyms like Mesa Rim have increased in popularity, she said, due to amplified media exposure and the inaccessibility of outdoor rock climbing venues nearby.
“Climbing gyms are kind of the logical first step in a lot of ways for people who are living in a city,” Bates said.
“Because of limited access in some areas to the outdoors, indoor gyms started popping up and so people are being introduced to rock climbing through the indoor community now,” Diller said.
Bates says indoor and outdoor climbing have evolved so differently, they’re almost two different sports. Whereas rocky terrain outside is unpredictable and unforgiving, handholds on manufactured walls are carefully designed and strategically placed.
For now, the social setting at indoor gyms like Mesa Rim can provide a viable option for climbers until they reach what Bates says is their ultimate goal: conquering landscapes outside.
Mesa Rim in Mission Valley is open seven days a week. Visit mesarim.com for more information about the company.
—Tori Hahn is an intern with SDCNN and a senior majoring in journalism at San Diego State University.