Camptown works with a low-experience group of climbers; meaning almost everyone who walks through our doors can be considered a novice at best. Demographically, our kids are kids (usually in elementary or middle school) and/or from a special needs population. During our yearly self-evaluation process, we noticed that our rocking climbing obstacles were in of themselves becoming obstacles to our participants’ success. Kids were leaving more frustrated and down than they were when they entered our doors…which very much goes against Camptown and the CRUX’s mission. As a result, we opted to do a whole-wall overhaul and redo our routes from the ground up. Here are the four biggest changes we made:
- Big Foot Holds – The first thing we saw was that kids couldn’t keep their feet on the wall. Whereas little holds (chips, if you will) are great if you have the right gear, they don’t work with who we work with. Unfortunately we don’t have the resources to provide climbing shoes, and our climbers don’t come with them in hand. Our climbers show up wearing things like running shoes or Chuck Taylors…which are flexy and slippery; not ideal for gripping tiny holds. Therefore, we put our biggest holds right at the bottom so they could start out on the right food and at least get a leg up.
- Easy “Beginner” Routes First – Our emphasis during the CRUX development was to generate challenging routes. Challenging is good until it is too challenging…then everyone fails. All of our climbers were rookies so we decided to plan our routes around them rather than the advanced climber. This mean we took all our biggest/easiest holds and put them together to make a great stepping stone to success.
- Color Coding and Simple Routes – We have one truly “multicolored” hold route on the whole wall now. We found that having different color holds with the mixed and matched tape made for a confusing picture to many of the kids we work with. We intentionally sacrificed some of our “fun” advanced routes to ensure that all our routes had one or two continuous colors in them.
- Think Like a Kid, Name Like a Kid – Last, we renamed routes. Instead of clever climbing analogies or routes named after famous outdoor settings, we renamed our routes fun names that kids can identify with. Just renaming routes after pop culture references has drawn some kids into trying them simply because of the name!
- Easy Route Maps – Finally, we have wildly easy to understand route maps and “what is a route” guidelines on the walls in our facility. Where most gyms tend to build recurring users, we usually see our climbers once and then never again. That means we have to be prepared to equip everyone with what our climbing culture at the CRUX looks like and how to use the facility we’ve made. Our route maps are in order from hardest to easiest routes, show the V-scale color coding system we use, list where the route is, and tell what color the holds in the route are.
Who are your climbers and how does your gym serve them where they are at?