Climbing at the Seattle Bouldering Project

Climber scales a wall.
Climber scales a wall. Isabella Paxton / The Watchdog

Nestled away right off I-90 on Rainer Avenue, the Seattle Bouldering Project lies hidden from any drivers or pedestrians. Getting to the parking lot is a challenge, if not a total secret to the public. Nevertheless, once through the cramped alley and around the dull grey and inconspicuous building, the parking lot is stuffed with climbers before 5:00 p.m., and for good reason.

Word of mouth is plentiful for the Seattle Bouldering Project to be a bustling hotspot for climbers and fitness enthusiasts. With two floors of bouldering walls up to 20 feet tall, a full fitness gym and free fitness classes included with the cost of a day pass, the Seattle Bouldering Project offers great bang for the buck with a mere $16 for a day pass. After hearing about how great it was from friends around school, I decided to get in on the hype and try it out for myself, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

The first time I went with a group of friends and it took an extra 15 minutes to meander around the blocks trying desperately to find the place. With no signs by the street, it was nearly impossible. Once we went inside though, we were greeted by a hip, colorful and bright open space, with a view of climbers scaling the multicolored climbing walls from the front desk. A mix of hit music and well-loved classics played throughout, and the whole space resonated with a welcoming and fun atmosphere.

We had to fill out an online waiver before getting started, and within ten minutes of arriving, we were getting our rental climbing shoes fitted – which are free for first-time visitors. Locker rooms complete with showers and saunas were available for us to stash our things safely. We were given a run-down of climbing etiquette and safety rules and turned loose to try our hand at bouldering.

Bouldering is rock climbing with no ropes. With an emphasis on technique and strategy, it is a sport of problem-solving as well as physical strength. The whole floor of the climbing gym is covered with padding several feet thick for safety in case of falls, and allowed for climbers to jump down from up to seven feet on the climbing wall comfortably.

Once we got over the initial shyness of being first-time climbers, the climbing was a total blast. The Project has a color-coding system that categorizes the difficulty of specially designed climbing problems, from the beginners-level grey to expert black. The walls feature various slants and inclines and shapes and sizes of climbing holds, and are constantly repainted and redesigned so members always have a new challenge. With accommodations for newbies like us and experts alike, the Project has something for everyone.

After taking some time to climb on the main floor upstairs, we decided to check out the first floor. At the bottom of the stairs is a small sitting area in front of more climbing walls, and a hallway leading down to the restaurant and fitness center. The restaurant, called West Wall, serves food such as local pizza and sandwiches, as well as locally brewed beer. There is a system for climbers to pre-order food to be ready at a certain time, so that they have a hot meal and cold beer waiting for them right after their workout.

The fitness center has just about everything under the sun, with general fitness equipment as well as an area for bouldering training. With the gym included, the Project offers a wide variety of activities and options for the day pass or membership fee.

Once we were able to get inside the Project, there wasn’t a negative thing about it. The whole area is clean and well-maintained with a fantastic atmosphere and reasonable prices for everything offered. Everyone who I have gone with says that they can’t wait to go back – and I am just as excited to get back on the climbing walls.

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