I felt like something more concrete was missing from my reviews — a way to more objectively differentiate the good gyms from the bad gyms. Or compare more easily specifics about the gyms!
I decided to create my own ranking system for the gyms I visit. It has a combination of objective ‘stats’ and subjective qualities. I tried to be as consistent as possible across the board, but just like attempting to grade an indoor boulder, deciding where a gym lies on a scale of 1-X for a certain feature is tough!
I hope this ranking system is helpful in illuminating differences in gyms while also highlighting what I look for and value in a gym.
The ranking system is a living system and I may add additional parameters as time goes on. As of right now it’s out of a total of 58 points spread across 8 categories.
The categories worth less than 10 (or less than 5) are as such because I do not believe they should influence the ranking as heavily as the more important categories. The categories with scores that are comma separate only have that number of options. Either a gym allows screw-ons or it doesn’t. No room for subjectivity there.
The categories and their explanations are as follows:
- Wall Space (0-10) – The available surface area for bouldering. Not an exact square footage, though that would probably be the most logical way to do it. Obviously the more climbing space available, the higher the grade will be. This is somewhat influence by ‘unbroken’ wall space. A gym can have a massive square footage of climbing space, but if it’s broken up into 10-15 foot wide sections it will score lower than an equivalently sized gym with walls that connect.
- Wall Shape (0-10) – The wall angle consistency, quantity, and variation of a gym. This one is pretty subjective, but again I tried to be universal in my judgement. A higher scoring gym has a large selection of angles with gradual changes or no change at all. Gyms with aggressive angle changes and weird features will score lower because the setting can easily become the same every time.
- Setting Quality (0-10) – The quality of the setting. Hard to gauge, especially after only one session sometimes, but I do my best! I tried to factor in difference in setting style and whether I was able to ‘farm’ beta while I was there. Typically at a new gym if I’m not able to send anything it’s either bad setting or I’m just missing something. Having another set of eyes (and arms and legs) to climb with can really help.
- Route Density (0-10) – The quantity of boulders on the wall. Another one I gauge by feel, but would probably be beneficial if I just counted the number of problems and divided them by the total square footage. Probably not going to happen, but what a nice thought! Thanks for suggesting it.
- Grade Spread (0-10) – The distribution of grades throughout the gym. A combination of the range and quantity of each grade. Selfishly I always want more hard stuff, and I think a great gym should reflect something like this:
Keeps the bulk of the problems under V6, but still leaves enough quantity for the crushers.
- Wall Material (0, 2.5, 5) – 0 points for a gym with plaster / concrete walls. 2.5 points for aggressively textured surfaces of any kind. 5 points for smooth surfaces. Probably the most objective in rating style, but completely preferential.
- Screw-Ons (0, 2.5, 5) – 0 points for a gym that does not have any screw-on holds. 2.5 points for a gym that has screw-ons on volumes ONLY. 5 points for a gym that uses screw-ons anywhere!
- Climbing Training Equipment (0-5) – The amount and types of training equipment that a gym has available. Number of hangboards and types, campus board and rung types, Tension Board?, Moonboard?, etc. All influence the score. A 5 would have literally every piece of climbing training apparatus currently available. Realistic right?
- General Training Equipment (0-3) – The amount and types of ‘regular’ workout equipment. Free weights, plates, bars, treadmill, cycles, etc. A 3 would have enough equipment to rival a small gym, but would not necessarily need the quantity. Some gyms I gave a 3 have vastly different amounts of equipment, but the total unique stuff is roughly the same.