DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Cali. - Most days in Joshua Tree National Park, during the months that aren't swelteringly hot, you can find a number of climbers of all ages inching their way up the massive granite boulders that give the park its unique look. About 50 miles west in the San Jacinto mountains, climbers are moving up big rock faces like Tahquitz, overlooking the pines and hills of Idyllwild and beyond.
Both of these areas lie on either side of the Coachella Valley and attract thousands of climbers every year. Now, the desert floor has a "cool" spot for climbers as well.
Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym passed its final inspection on Monday June 29th, and officially opened early in the afternoon. It will immediately fill a need that seems long overdue considering the proximity of such climbing hot spots.
Steve Schechtman is the owner and operator of Desert Rocks (he was its general contractor too) and aside from tapping the local climbing market, he hopes to share his passion for climbing with the Coachella Valley.
"Rock climbing is so addictive and is something that you just can't possibly even fathom until you've tried it," Schechtman says."To understand how exhilarating it is, and it's not just a matter of being horrified by the heights, there is so much to it. There's so much body english, there's so much mental energy that goes into figuring out how to move you're body, how to perform separate moves."
Steve definitely built a facility worthy of his epic enthusiasm. The building has around 7000 square feet of space which is all air conditioned. There are two 28 foot walls for harnessed climbing, one on the main floor and one in a separate room for beginners and private events alike . Also in the main room is a long wall for bouldering that stretches 17 feet above the massive foam pad underneath. What's bouldering? Climbing shorter routes without a harness, hence the huge foam pad.
"It's an unharnessed route but with a very thick landing surface, a 16 inch thick landing surface under it," Steve explains. "And it's for dynamic moves and it's complexities. It's problem solving is what it is and each month we change the routes so it's always something new and fresh." Steve demonstrated by bouldering a few routes, his body swinging high off the ground several times as he made his way up the wall that arches up and backwards over the foam pad below.
Aside from climbing areas, there's an upstairs space of around 1000 square feet set aside for fitness classes including Crossfit, martial arts, and yoga. "So it's hopefully all inclusive in the ways that something people would want to do indoors especially on a hot day and stay healthy," Schechtman adds.
Rock climbing gyms in the United States have seen big growth in the past few years. 29 gyms opened across the country in 2014 alone according to the Climbing Business Journal, and at least 40 more are expected this year. According to an article on MensJournal.com, "Walltopia, one of the leading manufacturers of climbing walls, has reported a 300 percent increase in business in the last four years alone."
But the goal for Desert Rocks stretches beyond being a successful business. Steve wants to bring people into the outdoors to experience what he's been able to share with his sons.
"We'd like to be a gathering place for people with the mindset of health and youthfulness, of sort of a central gathering point for people that want to get more involved in both learning the art of climbing and enjoying it plus then being propelled into outdoor climbing. We're able to offer outdoor guiding so we'd like to start taking people outside and show them what it's really like out there on the rocks and cliffs in the surrounding areas. It's really an education on the outdoors. I brought up both my boys rock climbing and you really learn to appreciate the geology of the area and the flora and fauna and it's just a wonderful activity to be able to perform outside in areas that most people would never see of course because you're off the ground."
You can purchase memberships and find any information you need about Desert Rocks on their website, http://www.climbdesertrocks.com/