Rogue Rock Gym, Creating a Foothold in The Community

Local rock climbers know the Rogue Rock Gym as the Rogue Valley’s premier indoor climbing facility and as a fabulous place to get in shape and have fun with climbers of all types. Providing professional instruction, group events and parties, kids climbing programs, fitness equipment and more, the Rogue Rock Gym is a great place to connect with other climbers and make new friends and long-lasting climbing partnerships. Now in its 11th year of business, owner Matt Lambert reports that the Rogue Rock Gym has experienced steady growth over the past decade, helping to cultivate a new crop of climbers of all ages and abilities. We met with Matt recently to hear how things have been going at the Rogue Rock Gym, and to learn about the latest opportunities for Rogue Valley residents to get fit and have fun while scaling rock walls both indoors and out.

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Matt, thanks for speaking with us today. I understand you have several new programs that are now being offered at the Rogue Rock Gym. Please tell us about them.

We are really excited about the upcoming changes to our youth programs and hope to continue our growth of offering new and exciting programs for the youth of the Rogue Valley. Our longest running program is called the Junior Program and is offered to climbers between the ages of 7 and 14. In our Junior Program, participants will learn the fundamentals of rock climbing and spend lots of time climbing and playing. Highly trained instructors will teach topics such as technique, safe harness use, how to tie essential knots, and fitness training, all with a focus on safety. This is a fun program for both beginners and advanced climbers. Emphasis on safety, respect and fun!

This March will have a new offering called the Everest Club. The Everest Club is the perfect program for experienced climbers and those wanting to learn. Climbers in the Everest Club will learn lots of new and challenging climbing skills such as lead climbing, anchor building, ascending and descending fixed ropes and advanced technique. Participants must be belay-competent and have instructor recommendation prior to joining the program. We are excited to achieve new heights with our youth program groups!

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Over the past 11 years the rock gym has really grown into a local hot spot for climbers. Please tell us about the success you have experienced.

The journey has been a wild one from day one, and I’m thankful that it’s been so successful. There has certainly been a boost of new climbers in the last couple months and the gym has been absolutely hopping! I think one of the reasons that we’ve been so successful is our great staff that are always around to teach, answer questions, and maintain the high level of safety that is paramount to the gym being as successful as it is.

We have also introduced some new devices to the gym called auto belays that have been getting phenomenal feedback. The auto belays are an automatic system that “belays” for you, allowing you to climb on our tallest walls with only a five minute orientation. The auto belays allow access to our tallest walls with no previous climbing experience or training required! Don’t worry, we still offer top ropes and our most popular course, the Basic Ropes course, that will teach you how to use those (Wed/Fri nights, 7-9pm).

Kids love climbing. What ages of kids do you see climbing at the gym?

We see kids and adults of all ages at the Rogue Rock Gym and they really seem to love it. There is no minimum age to climb with us, and we have climbing gear to fit even the littlest of climbers. Our current youngest climber to ever reach the top of our walls was just over two years old and she’s only gotten bolder since then! On the flip side of that, our membership base includes quite a few… *ahem* older climbers as well. Climbing can be a very low impact sport and is a great way to stay fit and flexible as the years start to add up.

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Talk to us about the culture of climbing both indoors and out.

The thing that distinguishes rock climbing from a typical health club is the social aspect of the sport. I built Rogue Rock Gym with the goal of providing a space for the local climbing community in Southern Oregon to come together and get to know one another. The sense of community that has developed over the last decade in our gym has exceeded my expectations! Friends meet up to climb together on a regular basis, and the atmosphere in the gym is something quite like a “Cheers” episode where everybody knows your name. I have climbed in gyms in cities across the country, but I have never experienced a more welcoming climbing community then in the Rogue Valley. We have people climbing in the gym for the first time on a daily basis and our regular members are always eager to help them out, show them fun climbs to try, and offer them tips on the wall. Often people meet new groups of friends in the gym and then plan outdoor climbing adventures. I often get compliments from folks who climb in gyms in other cities saying that the Rogue Rock Gym is their favorite place to climb because of our relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Comments like that make me really happy.

And how does the Rogue Rock Gym differ from a typical fitness center?

First, rock climbing is a true full-body workout, and it’s fun so you don’t even realize what a great workout you are getting until the next morning and realize how sore muscles you never knew you had can get! Climbing is great for toning muscle groups in your arms, shoulders, back, and especially your core. Second, there is a whole mental aspect to rock climbing. We set ‘routes’ or paths up the wall with climbing holds that act like puzzles which challenge your body and your brain while you climb. You have to figure out a specific sequence of movements to complete the climb successfully, and it may take many attempts over the course of months to put it all together to complete a climb. This is one thing that makes climbing so addicting for people, you go home thinking about the climbs you are working on, you’ll even find yourself dreaming of climbing sequences! It’s quite a bit different than running on a treadmill for an hour in front of a television or repetitively lifting weights.

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You guy are always creating new and exciting routes. Tell us about that.

Creating new routes is a process called routesetting, and it’s one of our favorite things to do in the gym. We are constantly changing and inventing new routes to keep our members interested. In the last couple years, we’ve really stepped up our routesetting game and have been getting great feedback from our members. As routesetters we constantly face new and exciting challenges keeping climbs fun, challenging and fresh for climbers of all ages, body types and skill levels. We recently appointed Zenas Rios-Brinker as the Head Routesetter of the gym, and we love the work he’s doing to make the gym a wonderful experience for everyone. He’s got an amazing team at his back and they are really blowing everyone away this year.

What barriers do you find keep people from trying it out for the first time?

I think a lot of people may be interested in climbing, but perhaps they don’t know anyone who climbs, or maybe they are intimidated to be a beginner in a gym full of more experienced climbers.  When people take the chance to climb on their own they often are surprised to find that the best climbers in the gym are equally psyched to support the new climbers and help them learn new skills. At RRG we try to make all newcomers feel welcome, help them meet new friends to climb with, and teach them the fundamentals so they can climb safely with their friends and family. Our auto belay devices make climbing accessible to anyone, regardless if you have a climbing partner or any previous experience. Another common barrier is that people often think they need to be really strong to become a rock climber. This is far from the truth because we build rock climbs for all skill levels, all body shapes and sizes. Your fingers will feel weak the first time, but if you keep at it your grip strength develops quickly. Regardless of your fitness level, if you start rock climbing you will lose weight and tone your muscles! Also, many people think they need to be a member to climb at the gym, but we offer single day visit passes for anyone to climb!

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You must have lots of success stories to share. Tell us about some of your most satisfied climbers.

We have worked with people and groups of all kinds at the gym, and have seen so many people overcome their fears and gain satisfaction and self-confidence from conquering our walls. One group that stands out is the Southern Oregon Special Education Service District who annually brings two groups of 40-50 kids to the gym. One group is legally blind, and the other legally deaf. These kids get so much out of climbing our walls, it’s truly incredible to watch and see their beaming smiles when they make it to the top, just glowing with pride to know they achieved success in something like rock climbing. I’d say working with those kinds of groups of kids are the most satisfying experiences I have had as the owner of the gym.

Matt, you have some great summer camps coming up. Please tell us about them.

We offer Summer Camps for kids ages 7-14 every year, and it’s one of our favorite times of the year. Typically, we offer five separate week-long camps between June and August. The camp runs from 9am-12pm Monday-Friday, and the kids have all kinds of fun climbing, playing games, and learning the ropes with our instructors. Space for each camp is limited to 15 climbers, and last summer we filled every single spot early on. We will post the 2016 Summer Camp schedule on our website in early March, so reserve a space for your kids early!

Business Information
Rogue Rock Gym
3001 Samike Dr Suite 104
Medford, Or 97501
(541) 245-2665
Check out their website here