Winter Rock Climbing at The Crux

Spider Kim at The Crux - Indoor Rock Climbing

Does everyone know that there’s an indoor rock climbing gym in Willsboro on the Adirondack Coast? I have known for years. Amazingly, however, this winter represents the first time I’d visited our local indoor gym, The Crux. After all, it has been there since 2009, and my friends have all raved about it. 

So THIS winter, I decided to plan a visit on one of their special Ladies’ Nights, when women climb for free on the first Monday of each month; and on the first Monday in February, I drove directly there after work.

The Indoor Advantage

Rock climbing gyms represent a very different experience than regular outdoor rock climbing. It’s a FUN workout option in my estimation. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s essentially a jungle gym in which the temperature is comfortable, the insects are nonexistent, and the ground is padded. 

I’ve been to a number of climbing gyms throughout the Northeast, usually during down time when on work trips when my husband comes along. He’s the REAL climber. And he’s definitely been to The Crux with his climbing buddies in the past - primarily in winter as a way to keep their rock climbing muscles and moves in top form until the snow and ice melts.   

As opposed to my highly skilled, lead-climber husband, I’m a mediocre, fair-weather, follower/belayer climber. (That might be surprising to those who knew me in my formative years, which were primarily spent tree-climbing.) I realized during my Crux visit that I started rock climbing about 20 years ago.  Given that, you’d think I’d be better at it.   

At most indoor climbing gyms, the routes consist of a series of textured holds made from molded material of various shapes and sizes, all attached to a vertical wall. It’s mostly set up for top-roping, so there’s no required prep time to organize gear and coil ropes like one encounters in “real” rock climbing. 

The Crux is one such playground. Owned and operated by the Pok-O-MacCready Camps, it has over 3,200 square feet of rock climbing space, with a section of 22’ high walls and a section with 40’ routes!   

They’ve also got a bouldering cave system downstairs. “Bouldering cave” sounds like something from the Flintstones, but “bouldering”, in this case, is actually rock climbing without a rope. It’s usually limited to short, low-altitude climbs over a crash mat. Often, the climbs are horizontal traverses, so that the climber remains the same distance from the ground. Sometimes climbers will ask a friend to “spot” them to ensure that if they slip off the rock, they remain on their feet or fall ON the crash mat.  At The Crux, the bouldering cave offers a variety of holds, all a short fall onto a very soft padding on the floor.  

 Crux bouldering cave

Ladies’ Night

I arrived promptly at 6pm, as the gym was open from 6-9pm that night. My car was quickly joined by two other cars in the small parking lot. I got out and grabbed my bag, which contained my own harness and rock climbing shoes.   

I suspected that I might see people I knew here, and I immediately recognized the driver of one of the other early-arriving cars as my friend Margie. She told me that she and her friend frequented The Crux - three times a week sometimes. I quickly started to feel like perhaps I’d been missing out on something fun. 

I signed my waiver and donned my rock shoes and harness. For those without their own gear, the Crux rents everything one needs, including climbing shoes, harnesses and helmets. 

From the main floor, and looking straight ahead from the entrance, there are a bunch of routes on one wall that include an overhang and a simulated crack in a cliff. The wall that meets it at about 90 degrees to the right offers more varied routes on a fairly vertical angle and as the wall wraps around, there is a climbing surface that slopes toward the floor at a slightly lower angle than 90 degrees vertical. My friend Margie was already warming up on that wall while her friend belayed.

One of the Crux staff offered to belay me on a climb up a moderate wall. (Only those certified are allowed to belay, or take up the rope as you climb and “lock it off” as you go so that in the case that you lose your grip, you won’t fall to the floor.)

I chose a couple of holds to begin my ascent, and despite my rusty climbing skills, I was able to maneuver up on the holds, using the wall feature that emulated a crack in a cliff as a foothold at one point. I selected carefully the hand holds that seemed more “bucket-like”, or easy to grasp.  After I reached the top, I assumed a rappelling stance and walked down the wall as he lowered me down to the floor. It was fun - and I decided to free my belayer to help someone else while I toured the place to see what it had in store.

SpiderKim
Small groups of people kept arriving, though the gym was far from “full”. Ladies’ Night isn’t exclusively for ladies, and I recognized one of the gentlemen as a licensed climbing guide I’d met at Ausable Chasm who is apparently a “Norm from Cheers”-like regular like my friend Margie, from the greeting he received.

As I looked toward the left, I could see through an open space in the wall; a window through which I could see the middle section of some routes on a wall that begins on the floor below and continues beyond the ceiling in the main room. I went downstairs where those climbs began. There wasn’t anyone climbing there at the moment. 

Before long, a group of women from nearby Plattsburgh began to set up to climb the tall, 40’ wall. They told me that they came to the Crux often. I asked them if they ever did any outdoor rock climbing and they surprised me by saying no. They all agreed that was on their to-do list for the future, though. The Crux serves as both a social gathering and a true workout for them.

Adjacent to the beginning of the 40’ fall was the bouldering cave. I decided to try out a few of those holds, and despite the short distance to the ground as far as exposure, the overhanging angle was certainly difficult! 

After a very short stint in the cave, I went back upstairs and watched my friend Margie climb a more advanced overhang route, cheering her on as she made it look pretty darn easy.  

 Margie Crux

Mark your calendar 

After spectating for a while longer, I decided to call it a night. Brian, the manager, talked to me briefly about The Crux. He told me that it has become popular for kids’ parties and other group events, which doesn’t surprise me at all. (Seems like a perfect place for a team-building event! )

He also told me that since it is owned by a children’s summer camp, the climbing gym has been part of the camp itinerary during summer months in years past, but this year they planned to offer open hours during the summer to the public as well. 

Fear not; Ladies’ Night isn’t their only special night. Guys’ Night is the 3rd Monday of the month, and Kids’ Club is SATURDAYS from 3pm-6pm (parents get free rentals). Every Wednesday, students who present a valid college ID can climb for $10 (including all equipment). 

Perhaps more exciting is the upcoming Spring Thaw Climbing Competition on March 9th, with divisions for youth and adults. Guess I’d better have Margie give me some pointers. Or maybe they’ll let me enter the youth division…

Getting there: 

From Willsboro, head north on Route 22 and take a left onto Reber Road BEFORE you get to Long Pond. Follow the road for longer than you think you should - there are signs that lead to Rogers Lane and The Crux. From Exit 34 off I87, drive straight onto Route 22 south until you arrive at Long Pond - Reber Road is on your right AFTER the pond and 1812 Homestead. Or, enter 56 Rogers Lane, Willsboro, NY into your GPS as I'd expect.

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