Next ten sessions at climbing gyms
Some things that were swirling round my head while starting into these next ten climb sessions:
- I want to see if I can make this a habit
- In particular, it needs to not feel like a chore -- and it doesn't so far (at least for this stage, when I'm just climbing and not really 'training')
- Focus on technique, especially since lacking brute force
- Quite afraid of premature injury derailing this whole thing
Apparently the EpicTV shop has good deals, it's just that the shipping from France breaks the deals on small orders.
Let's say for beginner shoes: as of writing, a pair of the La Sportiva Tarantula climbing shoes on EpicTV shop are going for EUR 70.99 (discounted 24% from EUR 93.50), which is a cool SGD 100.27, but shipping is EUR 19.90, which brings it back up to SGD 128.38.
At that point, if you can you might as well pick up those particular shoes at Kinetics Climbing (SGD 132.60 after 15% discount) or Campers' Corner (SGD 135), and be able to try a bunch of sizes on. Between the two, Campers' Corner's shoe section is very spacious and you can take your time, but there's no wall with holds to test the shoes on, while Kinetics' shop is so tiny that you can't extend both arms and spin in a circle (maybe not even both elbows) but I think they let you step out to the wall and step on some holds.
I ended up getting my shoes at Campers' Corner.
The Spacerock chalk is really fine and feels pretty nice.
Boulder Movement (Rochor)
Third Boulder Movement gym visit!
Everyone tells me that this is the largest BM gym. It does feel like it has a bit more than the Bugis location, at least as far as the actual bouldering walls go. There's probably something for everyone. There's a nice long stretch of slab wall right at the entrance, though it made me seriously consider whether too much of an slab angle is actually scarier. Big overhangy cave that all the intermediate-and-up people flock to. Quite a stretch of vertical-ish walls. There was also some loft area that looks like it at least had an training wall of some kind that I didn't get round to checking out.
The position of kilter board feels a bit weird, right smack in the middle, I end up always having to carefully step around the passageway next to it if there's a group there instead of just one person climbing solo.
I guess these gyms with multiple locations have the same team of route setters moving around. The grading around the levels that I'm climbing at seem to be fairly consistent across 3 sessions at 3 Boulder Movement locations, or at least I'm consistently being able to send problems graded 12 with some work and mostly really struggling with and not being able to complete most problems in the 13-15 range.
The capacity limit here is 50, and it was fully booked, it was fairly crowded but still felt bearable, this place having more open space compared to Bugis helps. There's many benches around, and in one larger area what looks like a bunch of storage boxes double up as seating, so it feels relatively roomy and most people probably can find a spot if they want. There is a bit of dead space at one corner, where there is a locked glass door/wall leading to the lift lobby outside, probably an artifact of the unit layout, but it also helps to open up the space a bit.
On the crash pads though -- it was a bit weird to see people flying off the wall while attempting a very dynamic move end up landing (with only a little rolling if at all) basically right up at edge of the crash pads. I don't know what's standard for the pad width from the walls, but maybe I'm thinking of Boruda or Boulder+ or Lighthouse that all just have quite a lot of width, and other other places just do wall to wall because they're so close? The other factor might be that the benches mostly started out right on the edge of the pads, it'd definitely be a bit of an improvement to push them back from the pads, so probably do that when you're sitting down.
An interesting side-effect of either the distance to the low benches, or having the higher waist-height storage boxes set a little further back, is that there were some folks (in a group) who set up to video from the boxes instead... basically filming across an aisle and benches. That was not great for them nor for the folks around who kept being told "(he/she) is videoing" because it's not obvious that standing around in the floor aisle behind benches outside the crash pads also involves looking behind you for camera angles! I don't know why I'm bringing this up but it just stuck because they told me that and it just didn't register for quite a few moments what they were obliquely as king (I thought they were asking folks to move back to give more room on the crash pads).
Really nice playlist on during this visit.
Origin Boulder (visit 2)
Back to where I had my first climb session! This time during a weekday lunchtime and afternoon.
It was really nice and quiet, I think there were maybe 4-6 people there when we arrived, and maybe another 4 people showed up eventually. (At the end of day, the booking system showed 10 off-peak climbers and 5 lunchtime climbers for the day. So that means basically about a dozen other folks.)
They now have an iPad up on the back counter for folks to enqueue music.
I spent a bit of time studying the crash pad widths after the earlier observations from BM Rochor. There are large sections here that are just basically wall-to-wall padded. For the sections (Coffee Break, Tidal and the far corner of The Horizon) where the pads aren't that wide, it didn't seem to be an issue in practice? They don't have the sort of benches that BM has, so that's part of it, but maybe the problems set in those areas just don't involve large dynamic sideways moves that can send people flying? Now that I think about it, I don't think there were many problems of that style here. Or maybe the folks climbing today just weren't tackling problems with that approach.
Distribution of 54 problems across levels:
|ungraded||2 (the "buddy route" pair of problems)|
(They maintain a full catalogue of their climbs on the KAYA app, that is what's on the wall-mounted iPad to see the grading and the videos, so at least I could make this list while sitting at home instead of having to go around making notes in the gym.)
It feels like the total number of problems is down a bit because one long stretch of wall was mostly taken up by the "buddy route" pair of problems, and there was a small section to the side of the arch that previously had around two problems that now has some kind of campus training setup instead. Overall they don't seem to set too densely.
Before I sat down and started counting problems to make the table, I had thought that the higher end would be really sparse, but it seems that there's actually a decent number of OB7 and OB8. I don't know what those levels translate to at other gyms yet, will have to ask the V4/V5-climbing folks whether they find the selection of problems at their level limited, but I guess that people climbing at any higher levels would probably be quite bored quick.
For this session, I was mostly expending energy on OB5 problems (but couldn't complete the one overhang OB5), OB4s were relatively straightforward, tried one or two OB6 problem and just mostly ran into a wall there.
With the benefit of hindsight and a tiny smidge more experience than the first session a mere 5 weeks ago, Origin seems a pretty good place for beginners to find their feet (even after a beer or two). It isn't too intimidating like some of the other gyms can be with steeply overhang walls or training equipment all over the shop. But all that probably hints at some questions about their ongoing sustainability especially against other gyms also targeting the same beginner-intermediate, CBD dweller (?) indoor climbing crowd.
We've seen the lunchtime promos that are probably moderately successful at best. The ongoing "buddy route" schtick probably aligns well (in the photogenic... videogenic? sense) with what seems to be an ongoing push to feature climbers' videos on their Instagram stories, but it does take up a fair bit of space in an otherwise somewhat space-constrained gym. I saw also on their IG that they tried an music-genre-themed-night on some Monday evening but I peeked at the booking stats and it didn't look great. We can probably expect more attempts to drum up interest in the near future.
BFF Climb (Bendemeer)
This is a really large gym in what's basically a few units and the "mall" atrium of CT Hub. They have a section (in the units) that's lower 1-storey-tall walls, and then what's basically four tall and long walls (two islands) outside, as well as a rather large section of high walls with 24 autobelay lanes. Two moon boards and an endurance wall and a hangboard area round it out. I'd say that the total bouldering wall area is not quite as large as Boulder+ (The Chevrons) even after excluding the high wall / comp walls, though it should be larger than Boulder+ (Aperia), and certainly all the other places I've visited.
It was super crowded on a weekday evening. There were probably more than 100 people around. This location closes at 22:45, and people started streaming out around 22:00, but it was still super packed at around 22:15 when I left. The counter staff are pretty fast at checking people in, since all the payment and slot booking needs to be done online, and all they need is your phone number or name to check in. What I found pretty entertaining was that to pay for stuff like shoe rental or harness rental, they don't do it in their online booking system, they have a QR code that leads directly to a Stripe Checkout page...
The trade-off of maximising wall space is having less walking space, so you pretty much have to cut between people and the wall all the time when you're moving around. It feels a bit more like Boulder Movement (Bugis) in that sense.
The crowd feels rather different, this was the largest concentration of NUS and SMU t-shirts that I've seen in a few years -- and a lot of folks look even younger than that. The music might be following the crowd, lots of beats, quite a few tracks sounded like remixes.
I was looking at their Facebook page afterwards and now I understand why there's a thriving multipass resale scene going on -- the multipasses bring the price down from $25 to $19, but they were also selling even larger multipasses during their pre-Bendemeer-opening sale that brought it down to $18/$17/$16, with the explicit provision that "you can share [the passes] with unlimited number of pax".
I wasn't trying very hard this session, 5 was easy but 6 was hard, and then I went off to try the high walls and endurance wall since they were less crowded.
Fit Bloc (Kent Ridge)
I feel like I keep saying this or that gym is large or really large and that's not very quantifiable. I'll add a section below where I try to roughly order them by my impressions of size.
This space is on the larger end, certainly smaller than BFF Climb (Bendemeer), but probably a little larger or on par with Boulder+ (Aperia). That's just considering the main climbing space though, this location has a lot of other stuff, like a bunch of tables/chairs, a largish display for the "store", some exercise bicycles and treadmills, a room with weights and stuff (towel and non-climbing covered shoes required), a yoga studio that also holds the endurance wall (only liquid chalk allowed, no chalk bags)... the overall floor area is pretty large.
There's a high wall with six autobelay lanes, in the same side as the two-storey bouldering section, with the overhang stuff below and not-too-tall mostly vertical wall above. Somehow the autobelays are really loud when someone is descending, I kept getting startled by the noise. I didn't spot any loud branding on the devices, so I guess they are neither TruBlue nor Perfect Descent? Some of them looked like they were a rope instead of a webbing band too.
There's a pretty large changing room with lockers (I dunno if these are functional), and it connects through to a bunch of shower cubicles and the usual toilet stuff. This is an actual changing room with benches and stuff, not the changing cubicles that are typical. I don't know what's going on but about half of the shower cubicles and toilet stuff was marked as under maintenance? Is their lease running out or something? It wasn't too dirty but the overall condition seemed a bit wonky, sensor taps that didn't work, toilet seat was slanted...
There's a four-lane 25m lap pool with lane markers downstairs, but I didn't go check it out since it was raining quite steadily.
On this Sunday, it was pretty busy around 11:00, though it thinned out especially closer to 13:00 as people headed out for lunch (lots of shoes and chalk buckets left around), and was quite quiet when I left just before 15:00. People really need to not use bags to chope tables/chairs though, they were absolutely covered in bags and shoes everywhere so easily a third or half of all the bags around weren't in the shelves. Don't plan to use the "coworking space" on the weekend.
The problem setting here seems to be on the denser side, probably in the ballpark of Kinetics (just with taller walls). There was a spot where I was staring at a yellow hold and trying to figure out which of the two adjacent identical-yellow problems it belonged to. And elsewhere I was staring at a hold trying to decide whether it was bright lime green or dark lime green, thanks to some chalk on the hold. The density is much more obvious in a photo, I took a snap to record one of the problems and in that probably 2m wide stretch there are 8 or 9 problems. There was another section where there were a bunch of tiny starting handholds all on a volume and they basically just plonked a cluster of coloured discs below the volume to even be able to place all the L/R starting hand markers.
I was mostly cycling between the upstairs vertical section and the other slight-overhang section, depending on which section was less crowded, and ended up being able to send 2 bars more often than not, while being really stumped by a lot of 3 bar problems and only sending two. There were some problems that I ended up getting to watch somebody else send (which isn't too often unless somebody is warming up, most folks seem to be climbing in the 5-6 bar range) and I was still quite mystified afterwards.
Climb Central (Funan)
Time for some top-roping.
Climb Central charges a $10 registration fee. The website only lists the "first timer sets" that at $35 include both registration and a single entry pass, but on-site they have registration listed separately on their price chart at $10, so you can use someone's multipass and then pay $10 for registration. (CC requires the owner to be present during check-in to use their multipass.) This amount also covers the shoe and harness rental ($7), so you could think of it as $3 for registration and the mandatory safety briefing, or more if you bring your own shoe/harness.
The safety briefing will cover how to clip in to top-rope, how to belay on top-rope using their ground anchored tubular belay devices (and implicitly their fancy BelaySAFE braking anchor), and how to clip-in and use the auto-belay devices. They teach the hand-over-hand technique for belaying. They will ask you to immediately practice/demonstrate whatever was just taught so I guess that is some form of verification.
I suppose they think their braking anchor at the top is sufficient to not need further instruction or practice, like having climber and belayer practice a fall?
Given that, it is really quite mystifying that it's a couple minutes training to use their ground-anchored tubular device, but to use your own belay device suddenly you need to attend a top-rope course (probably the 7-hour SNCS Level 1 class, but strangely that class by itself doesn't even teach you how to use an assisted braking device) and you have to have and know how to use an assisted braking device (ABD) and you have to book a $10 top-rope belay verification session which has a fixed schedule twice a month and only has about 45 slots a month. I don't really understand how you can screw up worse just by using your own belay device; the worst case should still be that you have no hand on the braking end of the rope?
There is a separate area dedicated for lead climbing, with a different carpet colour that non-lead climbers are supposed to stay out of. This is a different setup from T-Hall, which seems to have the bolts and quickdraws set up on all (or nearly all) the top-rope lanes so any of them could be used for lead climbing.
This is my first time on top-rope, since I was only on the auto-belays at T-Hall. The top-rope walls here are about two storeys tall, and feels roughly the same height as T-Hall. Apart from the increased endurance required due to the sheer vertical distance to travel compared to bouldering, it really is quite different to be able to hang and rest if you want to, and also to know that slipping or falling should only be a short drop/swing without a big drop to the crash pad and without that brief moment waiting for the auto-belay to slow you. I feel like I was doing things that I wouldn't do without that rope, like if it was on a bouldering wall or if I was on auto-belay, partly because of that tight rope and partly because sometimes the rope feels like it's slightly helping me stick to the wall.
There is probably something to work out between climber and belayer about how much slack or how tight the rope should be, and also when it should be tight. CC simply tells you to pretty much have no slack, but I think the when is a question, like should we wait until someone is stable in the next position before taking up the slack? I think I was a bit overenthusiastic about keeping the rope tight and quickly the first time I was belaying, to the point that it was probably "overly supportive".
One thing about this location is that the music speakers are mounted at one storey up, so it's kind of difficult to hear your belayer. It did not help that some restaurant one level up is currently boarded up for renovation and there were bursts of drilling noise. I guess the belayers have to be generally good at reading body language or signals. (Don't be like me and accidentally interpret some signal from the climber while hanging as "lower me" when it wasn't.) This seems less of a problem for top-roping, I am not sure how that would work for lead climbing which seems to need more communication, maybe they just yell more, weird as it is to do that indoors in a shopping mall.
While the gym is supposed to be open until 23:00 on weekdays, strangely enough it suddenly emptied out really fast slightly past 22:00 and out came the vacuum cleaners.
Afterwards I was reading up about how belaying can go wrong and how ABDs can be misused, and now I am a little bit more concerned about whether the belayer has correct technique and instincts. The braking anchor that CC uses does seem to have some effect, because it does feel like it's resisting when you try to pull the climber's end of rope down without placing your full bodyweight on it, so it's something to think about even more when being belayed at other gyms. Given that each ABD has slightly different recommended usage and thus ways to misuse it, you'd need a bit more knowledge on hand in order to be able to quiz or observe the belayer and see if everything is correct.
Bootstrapping this trust between the climber and belayer seems difficult, especially in a pair since it's difficult to observe the belayer as the climber. It would be cool if there was a setup with a weighted mannequin or something that can be raised and then dropped (whether as a surprise or not) for belayers to practice catching with -- it was quite scary to watch some videos where some climbing gear manufacturer (Black Diamond or Petzl I think) get actual humans to enact various fall scenarios. The next best alternative seems to be to have a third person to at least observe the belayer, maybe also hang on to the braking end, but even then if you don't want to risk a fall that will still be limited to checking the routine belaying habits.
Top-roping feels quite hard compared to bouldering because of the increased endurance, I don't really remember if I even completed a level 1 route. It also feels like the feedback/learning loop is a lot longer because it takes so much longer for each try, and then it's 2x that to swap with your buddy. You do get to hang there and think/try something tricky for a while, but well, sometimes "shag cannot think" (people who don't know Singlish must be so confused by this use of the word) and also don't really want to take too much time on your belayer and on the lane.
It does seem that top-roping should be somewhat safer than bouldering, at least when nothing goes wrong with the belaying. Or at least, I would expect that top-roping should result in fewer incidents, since most falls are caught, but when the falls aren't caught then the severity may be rather higher due to the heights. Bouldering has a lot more actual falls and jumps where you meet the crash pad, and each one of those is an opportunity to result in injury, but given the lower heights in most cases those injuries will hopefully be less severe than those of much larger heights. I don't know if that actually adds up to result in safer or not, it could depend on whether you prefer rarer but more severe injuries, or more common but less severe injuries.
Boulder World (Singpost)
My first impression of this gym as I walk in and see the really long shoe shelves, counter and the big training board out front is that it looks pretty spacious... then you get to the main area and then it still looks spacious but just really dark.
The walls are as tall as they get, probably close to 4.5m. But the ceiling has the bog standard ceiling grid, with the fluorescent tube squares, and the density of the light fittings don't seem to compensate for the increased ceiling height compared to offices. The positioning of the lights are also seemingly not adjusted for the wall positions, so there was one weirdly shaped "The Cave" corner that felt unlit.
It also doesn't help that parts of the wall are painted black or some other dark colour, especially when the wall isn't a straight line top-to-bottom and has protruding sections, and it's the lower section that's painted a dark colour.
The problem tags are thin lines against a black background, which are nearly impossible to read at a distance. The grading is indicated as coloured circle-segments around the circumference to show 0 through 8 segments (bars), with a fixed colour for each number so in theory you could either count the bars or look at the colour, but they're incredibly thin and difficult to make out unless you walk up close. This feels even harder to read than the tape at Kinetics.
The whole place just generally feels quite gloomy. Now I understand why many gyms have spotlight style lights installed to project light forwards and at an angle.
The main area has wall to wall crash pads, which is nice, though the slab area has a narrow and long patch of exposed floor in the middle, probably a function of fixed sizes for the pads or the patch being too narrow to be able to provide good support. They use the velcroed together grid of squares style, visually quite similar to Kinetics, though without the weird weak spots near the climbing walls. They do retain the issue of having weird spots at the edges away from the wall / close to the floor. At the slab wall area there was a small section that seemed to have a messed up cover and had foam visible.
They have three types of training boards. Whichever adjustable board at the front near the counter seems to visibly wobble when you catch on to holds in the top few rows.
The holds (and walls) generally seemed quite chalked up. At the slab area, I had a lot of problems with one particularly slippery foothold (on a 2 bar problem) that was actually blackened by what I am now told is shoe rubber.
It feels a bit short of downclimb jugs. They exist, but I keep feeling like it's not enough, especially given that problems here are generally higher grade so you are much less likely to have some nice holds nearby that you can use. Maybe the climbers here are too pro to need special holds to downclimb on? I vividly remember completing a 3 bar on the slab wall and wanting to downclimb... but that's at my limit so the holds are hard for me, problems on the left were harder and sparser, and the problem on the right was an easy 1 bar... except that the last holds were at my feet level so I could step across but the wall was just blank...
It is quite A Choice for the men's toilet to have no door and instead one of those half-height split curtains (great, no contact required!), and then what feels like nearly direct line-of-sight from that doorway into the changing area. If there was a divider or something to break the line-of-sight that I missed, I'm sorry, but if there wasn't they really should put something in.
On a Sunday, it wasn't too busy when I arrived around 12:15, then it really emptied out as people mostly left for lunch, and then it suddenly really filled up after 15:00. I don't know if it is not too crowded on Sunday mornings, or if people here just leave earlier for lunch.
The crowd here seems to climb pretty hard. Instead of having more people climbing around what I'm going to assume is the V4-V5 range (assuming that many people get stuck here) and few in V6+ and beyond, the proportion of the crowd climbing V6+ just seems much higher here. I feel like there were fewer people warming up on what I'm working on because they start with harder problems 🙃 and also quite some number of people talking about 1Q and 2Q problems at Boruda.
The grading scale here is also 0 to 8 bars, same range as Fit Bloc. I also think that the grading at least for the 0 to 2 or maybe up to 3 bar range is similar to Fit Bloc, in that I currently find 1 bar easy, 2 bar mostly doable with some work (but with trouble on overhang), and 3 bar basically very difficult and I might only send one of those.
The distribution of problems here is not skewed to the beginner end, it feels more like Kinetics in that it's more evenly distributed or at least heavier in the intermediate ranges. I think it will be interesting to see if they adapt this strategy for their upcoming Paragon location.
Overall, this Boulder World reminds me a lot of Kinetics, except larger, taller and darker, and similarly better for intermediate and up climbers.
This is quite a gym.
The physical space feels even smaller than Kinetics, narrower at least. It's like a narrow alley with walls on both sides, then a break for a really tiny locker/toilet space, and a small endurance wall and training area at the back. There's also a small roof section in the middle of the main climbing area. Basically all this adds up to mean that you are constantly getting in somebody else's way, even more so than at Kinetics. It's like a constant dance around the space, if you sit down for anything longer than taking off your shoes you'll probably be asked to move really soon.
If you're falling or jumping off the wall you probably want to try to stick the landing instead of rolling, because chances are you will collide with someone. Better clear and then ask someone to help keep clear an area if you're trying some big move that you know will send you flying. It's serious enough that they have a "no phones on the mat" (which is basically the whole climbing area, since it's effectively mats wall to wall) policy.
The crash pads also are the joined together grid type, but no issues with the foam coverage at the edges next to the walls.
The hold density is also really high. In the first-timers briefing they directly point out that the hold colours will overlap, and just... look at the shape of the holds to figure out which problem they belong to. I found this pretty tricky when the nearby problems' grades weren't that far apart, and especially an issue for tiny footholds. Sometimes a colour difference is just the hold being chalked up.
They use the "French" grading system and starts at 5+. Their grade comparison chart says the next level up of 6a is equivalent to V1 to low end of V2 in the "US" system. Taking that at face value, at least at this level it feels a lot stiffer to me than problems at other gyms that also have a comparison to the Hueco system. But it may also be a matter of style -- quite a few of the problems at 6a were using rather crimpy holds which I had huge trouble with, having not done much of that so far.
I managed a few 6a problems but none of the crimpy ones.
Definitely seems like an more "intermediate" level climbing place, though I guess if you're a beginner at any of this sort of places you just need to work harder on fewer problems and get better faster.
Boulder Planet (Sembawang)
They've recently done some kind of tie-up with Boruda so that their pricing is all aligned and passes interchangeable now. Also, marking this as Sembawang to distinguish from the new outlet that they're opening in Tai Seng later this year.
Let's get this out of the way first -- Sembawang Shopping Centre is really out of the way. I took a bus from Yishun MRT, and even that bus ride took quite a while. An alternative is to walk from Canberra MRT, but it's quite a walk. If you're already somewhere in the north, great, but for everyone else this is likely quite ulu.
Relatively big and spacious feeling. They say it's 1100 sqm floor area and 500sqm of climbing surface. The walls are mostly not too overhangy, and in fact the amount of slab walls was a little surprisingly high. There's a long comp wall at the far end.
The toilet/showers seem clean enough. There is a small combination locker room changing room type of area, which sounds like a nice idea, except that sometimes people then sit around at the changing bench section thumbing their phones, which is annoying because that's exactly the bit of the space that has completely no line of sight to the doorways.
The store area seems to have quite a wide selection of Tenaya and Evolv climbing shoes, as well as a couple racks of apparel. They also are currently the only place around that you can buy Spacerock chalk by the tin ("capsule"), and also buy directly as a loose refill without packaging (either into the tin or I suppose you should be able to bring any container since there's a weighing scale; no discount, still $60/kg).
I eventually managed quite a few level 3 problems but zero dice when trying the level 4 problems. There's this one problem that probably required a heel hook that I'm still thinking about.
Overall, not bad but also nothing that would tempt me into repeating the long trip out to Sembawang.
Second visit, this time without the crampedness of having a chunk cordoned off for wall stripping.
On a Thursday evening, there was a big group of uni students in climb team t-shirts hogging one of the 'a' sections, I was checking the schedule afterwards and it was probably because it was the newest set. They eventually moved off to the 'b' sections and then all landed at the spray wall for the rest of the evening. This left the rest of the gym feeling much less crowded, definitely less so than the previous visit on a Wednesday evening.
Small footholds high up on the slab wall are still quite scary but at least this time I didn't have to contend with the rental shoes.
It's been 5 weeks since the previous visit, this session felt like not much progress. I seem to have gone from some 8Qs to most 8Qs, but only managed two 7Qs.
This session was set to a playlist entirely of anime (?) music.
I forgot to check if the giant teddy bear is still lurking around.
Boulder Movement (Tai Seng)
Fourth and last of the Boulder Movement gyms that I'll visit for now.
This visit took place after BM's announcement of the Suntec gym being pivoted to a Flux-level gym (V4 and up), and the subsequent quieter messaging changes to position Downtown as best for beginners, and the other gyms as having a balanced offering. I don't know if this has affected the routesetting here yet.
The gym in a ground level unit accessed externally and not through the mall interior, it's a very rectangular space. Since there's line of sight everywhere, the staff member manning the counter basically can hang out elsewhere in the gym and just bounce back to the counter when someone comes in or the phone rings.
On a Sunday early slot (10:00-14:30), it was only about half full, perhaps 25+ climbers at peak (the current cap is 45). This was a good number, you could find a gap somewhere and slot in, or just join in the rotation somewhere without too much difficulty. I arrived around 11:20 and there were still some folks streaming in after that, then some folks left from 12:00 onwards, and the crowd got really thin from 13:30.
The wall angles are slightly more varied than BM (Downtown) with a cave area, but probably still not as much as Bugis and Rochor. There is an endurance wall over at one end, I don't know if it's more angled than usual but at the end of the session I basically barely manage 5 moves on the easiest-looking circuit so... it feels hard.
I only managed to count problems for about half to two-thirds of the gym, so here's the grade distribution for the Golden Hour and Cave sections, excluding the Slab and Straight Face sections:
|Flux 1 (V4)||2|
|Flux 2 (V5)||2|
|Flux 3 (V6)||0|
|Flux 4 (V7)||1|
|Flux 5 (V8+)||0|
(Aggregated according to their "V-grade" per their chart.)
I don't think the distribution was too different in the remaining sections, perhaps one or two V0 and at least one V6, and nothing about V7. So they don't really have ladders (the lowest grade I recall seeing was a 7, that was not obviously a ladder) and quite heavy in the V2-V3 range.
The "setter's choice" problems that I could manage were quite interesting, a balance-y 14, and a 15 that ended with two really high steps up to basically hand level.
It's been 4+ weeks since the last visit to a BM, so assuming that the grading is consistent, some small progress in being able to send some easier V2s (a handful of 14s and some 15s) compared to trying and mostly failing on V2s last time. But of course grading is subjective, and I got completely stumped by a 13 too, so it's not like I can consistently do everything below 14 yet.
The playlists at BMs so far have generally been much closer to my speed. At least I see much more likely to end up tapping my feet to it occasionally.
Rough sizing of bouldering gyms
I'm trying to guesstimate the sizing from my impressions by considering the wall length of the "main" bouldering sections, excluding comp style walls, training stuff (moonboards, endurance walls), high walls with autobelay. I'm excluding comp style walls in particular to get the 'space' sense closer to the number of problems.
I am very sure I have gotten some parts wrong, it's just guesses!
- Boulder+ (The Chevrons)
- excluding comp wall and training area
- BFF Climb (Bendemeer)
- excluding high walls, two moonboards, endurance wall
- Boulder Planet (Sembawang)
- excluding comp wall
- Fit Bloc (Kent Ridge)
- excluding high walls, moonboard, endurance wall, other spaces
- Boulder+ (Aperia)
- excluding upstairs endurance wall and training area
- excluding training area
- Boulder World
- excluding three boards
Medium to Small:
- Boulder Movement (Rochor)
- excluding training board
- Fit Bloc (Depot Heights)
- excluding training board
- Boulder Movement (Tai Seng)
- Boulder Movement (Bugis)
- the comp wall is very long, I'm not sure if the island and arete areas are longer than Downtown or not
- Boulder Movement (Downtown)
- excluding the training half
- excluding the roped wall
- especially high density though, feels higher than Kinetics so more problems despite less wall space
This last section is Medium to Small because I haven't figured out where to draw the line and call it Small. Kinetics and Oyeyo for sure, Lighthouse and Origin probably, BM (Downtown) maybe...
Revisiting some of the points from the top:
I don't know if I can call this a habit yet, but I certainly feel weird if I don't have a plan to go and climb on the weekend. If I wake up on Sunday morning and don't have a plan, I'll have a plan shortly. At least it feels much closer to a habit and further from a chore, relative to my attempts to slot in even a once-weekly short run -- I did that for two weeks, then just missed the third week (yay public holiday), and didn't even try to make it up afterwards.
I was also a little concerned about whether I'd only be interested to do this as a social activity. While it's definitely nicer to climb with folks (and probably also better for learning to have folks occasionally help troubleshoot), half of this set of sessions were solo and while it can be a little overwhelming when it's super crowded (BFF Climb ugh) I'm still doing more sessions.
I think I would like to get a chalk bucket in hopes that it is a faster and easier way to coat my hands in chalk. Or maybe try out using liquid chalk as a base layer, or just try some alcohol (sanitiser without skin moisturiser?) to dry hands out first. There are some days when my hands are especially sweaty and it takes ongoing effort to squeeze the chalk ball and swirl hand around the handful of loose chalk I keep in my current bag until it's sufficiently dry. Since some places have a stated requirement for chalk balls and/or liquid chalk instead of loose chalk, maybe best to get both just in case they are needed.
I have no regrets buying a pair of climbing shoes. I dunno if it's all in my head in the first place, but at least if I don't stick a small hold or slip off a volume now I feel that it's clearly my technique or approach, and not a shoe problem. I've definitely seen a few footholds and volumes get even more blackened after I slipped off, that must be why they say that beginners will wear through their first shoe's rubber quickly...
I have visited 16 bouldering gyms (not counting places with top-rope/lead climbing like T-Hall and Climb Central), there are five more bouldering gyms that are currently open that I've yet to visit, and three more that are expected to open sometime this year. That's 21 gyms now, and 24 soon! That feels like a lot! I wonder how all these gyms scrounge up all the routesetters. I imagine you can contract out interior design and wall design and maybe training equipment selection, but routesetting is ongoing work and presumably they can't do it remotely!
Of the five currently open, I'll exclude Boulder Movement (Suntec) until I can reasonably make attempts at Flux 1 (V4), so that leaves four for now: BFF Climb (Bukit Timah) and Z-Vertigo in the west, Ark Bloc in the northeast, and b8A in the east. (I was considering excluding Ark Bloc since it isn't bouldering-only, but since they don't have roped climbing and it looks pretty large, might still be worth a look.)
Given the locations of the five, I don't think it's likely that they will end up on the gyms that I'd like to frequent. For now, I think Boulder Movement will definitely continue to be interesting at least until past V3 (and possibly beyond, I haven't paid much attention to how many Flux level problems they actually set and the variety), which is probably still a long way to go, and I also quite like Fit Bloc and Boulder+.
I'll continue hunting for information about avoiding common climbing injuries. The one clear thing so far is that while the full crimp is likely a lot more powerful, the mechanics of it are also that it's much more likely to cause pulley injuries. I haven't figured out the dangers of pockets yet so I'm choosing to not touch any smaller than 3 fingers, if I actually see that on the wall. Still working on figuring everything else out.
I have been thinking about whether I want to get more into top-rope climbing but the thought of being dropped or dropping someone is really quite scary. It seems like it is more of a low likelihood, high severity kind of activity, where incidents aren't as frequent but when they do they can be really bad, compared to bouldering where there's higher likelihood of something happening but the severity is relatively low. (At least for indoor climbing!)