Vertical World, America's First Climbing Gym, Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

Can you believe it has been 30 years since the first climbing gym opened?

Vertical World Gym Today

30 years ago, in a rundown warehouse in Seattle, two ordinary climbers made history when they glued chunks of rock onto sheets of plywood. With not much more than a vague concept and a shoestring budget, Richard Johnston and Dan Cauthorn laid the foundation for what is now the indoor climbing gym industry, and opened Vertical World, the first indoor climbing gym in America.

Even though the local climbing community initially declared the idea would fail, the two built the first gym with 3/4” plywood, epoxy paint and rocks glued to various surfaces in the warehouse. Launched with sweat and ingenuity and hope, today Vertical World has over 80 employees, with another 15 coming online with our new gym in Lynnwood, Washington, this summer.

“It is amazing to think that the industry started in such a bootstrap way with us barely getting by with gluing rocks on the walls, cleaning the bathrooms, scraping enough money to buy another can of paint, and enjoying all the challenges thrown our way. The stories are prolific, and there are plenty of them!” remembers Dan Cauthorn.

Thirty 30 years later, there are climbing gyms in every major city, and the 2020 summer Tokyo Olympic Games will feature sport climbing for the first time. Currently Vertical World has two operating locations with a third opening this summer: Seattle, Redmond, and Lynnwood. Today, memberships account for about 60 percent of the business. The other 40 percent is from classes, camps, and youth programs.

Community and education are a big part of Vertical World’s mission, and the youth climbing team is an area of special pride. Vertical World has been and is still a major force in the USAC system today.   

“We have a philosophy that touches on the heritage and history of climbing,” Rich says. “We are not a daycare, or amusement park. We teach kids the risks and responsibilities of climbing and how to interface with the environment, by hosting trail work days and teaching the impact climbing has on the outdoors.”

About Vertical World

Vertical World opened the very first rock climbing gym in America in 1987 on Elliott Ave in Seattle. The gym was no more than rocks glued to painted plywood panels. Today, with more advanced facilities, Vertical World accommodates a variety of offerings beyond rock climbing, including performance and educational programs in fitness, yoga, and custom group events including birthday parties, school or church groups, corporate events, private parties, and youth camps. Vertical World currently has two gyms in Washington, with a third to open in 2018.

PR Contact: Beth Cochran 406.579.7909

Source: Vertical World


Categories: Sports, Fitness, and Recreation, Emerging Businesses

Tags: climbing, first gyms in America, Olympics 2020, Seattle business, sport climbing gyms, USAS climbing competitions

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