climbing gyms toronto

Climbing gyms are preparing to reopen in Toronto but when that will be is still uncertain

Rock climbing gyms are waiting patiently for their turn to reopen. 

The last few months have been trying for the rock climbing community with both indoor and outdoor walls closed to the public.  

"It's been lonely and sad. It's also been devastating financially. The climbing community isn't here and it's such a waste," said The Rock Oasis owner Karen McGilvray. 

Matthew Languay, owner of Basecamp Climbing, says rent in particular has been a struggle. 

"Unfortunately we are quite a large location square footage wise, which means rent is an extremely prohibitive cost," he said.

In the midst of this, Basecamp Climbing has also been working towards opening a second location and that's been putting extra financial pressure on Languay.

He's been building the place by hand and has had to create an Indigogo campaign to help fund the new Queen West facility as money got tight.  

"The community voice and vibe has been super positive, which is nice. [But] the complete inability to operate is scary. If there's a second wave and it's another four month shut down we're going to be in a very precarious situation with two facilities," said Languay.

"But if we can get to a phase where we can reopen I'm not concerned. We have a very tight knit community [and] we'll be able to operate."

However, when that phase will be is still very much up in the air. 

It's assumed that they will be part of Stage 3 of the government's restarting process but earlier on there was a miscommunication and The Rock Oasis actually reopened for the last eight days in May, only to be quickly shut down again. 

But those eight days gave McGilvray a good idea of what the new normal of rock climbing will be. 

"We had a chance to practice it and we had a fantastic system," she said. 

It went so well that when they're given the real go ahead she's going to do the same thing.

McGilvray told blogTO that at first they're only going to be allowing members to make reservations and will be limiting the capacity to about 15% of what they can normally accommodate.

Each group will only be allowed to climb in one area and only for an hour and 45 minutes. The extra 15 minutes is for staff to sanitize everything.  

Additionally, McGilvray told me that climbers must wear masks as well as wash or sanitize their hands before and after each climb. 

"I think we have it as safe as it can be," she said.  

Languay shared his plan with blogTO and it's very similar to McGilvray's with everything from how people should enter and exit the facility to how many people are allowed on each wall. For example, only three people will be allowed on the bouldering wall. 

Languay told blogTO he also plans on sharing this with members to help prep them before they come back to the gym. 

"Managing expectations is really important because it's a new normal," he explained. 

Although some things are subject to change as the government hasn't officially given any guidelines on what's required of climbing gyms for reopening. 

However, all rock climbing gyms in Canada and across North America have been sharing resources to provide the safest experience for the climbers.

And Languay and McGilvray say reopening can't come soon enough. Climbers are desperate to get back on the wall. 

"People really want to come back climbing and we want them to come back. People are suffering mental health issues," said McGilvray. 

Languay told blogTO that some of his members have been building their own walls using old holds from Basecamp Climbing that they sold at the beginning of the pandemic. 

"It's been really lovely to see that once this is over people are really excited to come back and start climbing," he said.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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