You’ve all been asking for it, so here it is! (Well, two people… but that’s half my readership haha)
That being said, ClimbTime is not immune to anthonysgymreviews! This review will be a different style than my previous ones. I’ll be long winded and go into more detail; mostly because I know and love this place, but also as a way to shift the direction of my reviews into a more formal space. I will always post them on Insta and FB, but I may transition to a blog as well. Who knows!
Some background for those not familiar — ClimbTime has an interesting history. Being on the older side (built in 1993) it had a lot of influence back in the day. Scott Rennak (a previous CT owner) founded the Eastern Bouldering Series (which was renamed ABS and now is a part of USAC) in 1998 and had the national contest at our very own ClimbTime the next year!
OK, enough of the history lesson. I will attempt to be as objective as possible, but this being my home gym I’m sure some bias will leak through. I’m only human!
For me, ClimbTime embodies everything a dedicated bouldering gym should be. No-nonsense, huge setting surfaces, a community of climbers that encourage improvement and relationships, a multitude of uninterrupted angles and good setting that covers grades that go above what the strongest climbs can do. Non-textured walls, too!
To clarify what I mean by uninterrupted angles — the picture of ‘The 30’ does that well. It’s one angle for the entire width and height. I believe this consistency allows for greater training and ease of setting, which lowers the skill-floor for good problems. Volumes are often added for variation, but you aren’t locked into one particular ‘feature’ that becomes stale overtime.
Climbing in a gym shouldn’t be to specifically emulate outdoor bouldering in all its facets, but to train movement and develop that strength in a variety of forms. In that regard, ClimbTime’s walls do exactly that. There is no attempt at mimicking rock ‘feel’ or to have an organic shape to the wall. An extension of that is the shift to textured walls. I find that to be completely unnecessary. Texture volumes are great because you can use them as holds, but the walls should be relatively smooth. It saves on shoe rubber and encourages proper, precise foot placement. ClimbTime walls are plywood which I believe is the best material. Cheap, strong, easy to replace, and provides the widest setting options. Screw-Ins can go anywhere and if a panel needs replaced there is no company to get in touch with, you buy a new sheet of plywood from any big box store.
The setting goes from OK to Good to Great. Is it 100% consistent? No. I’ve been on problems that I felt should have been tweaked heavily or taken down before a wall opens. I’ve also been on some of the most enjoyable indoor climbs ever here. Cincinnati is not a ‘hot bed’ for climbing so there isn’t an influx of people who climb that come to this city. By extension the pool of available setters is pretty limited. ClimbTime shuffles through a head setter every few years due to this, and without a consistent vision of what the gym ‘should’ be, the setting fluctuates heavily. It has always been good, but there were periods where everything was great, and periods where a lot more mediocre stuff was put up.
There are eight main climbing ‘walls’ at ClimbTime.
– 30-degree wall (‘The 30’)
– 45-degree wall (‘The 45’)
– 45 to 60 degree wall(‘The Lead Wall’)
– Shorter 45-Vert (‘The Cave’)
– 60-degree wall (‘The 60’)
– Tall 15-degree wall + Slab (‘Slab Wall’)
– 30-degree to Vertical (’30 to Vert’)
– Shorter 15-degree wall (‘Short 15’)
The first 4 walls are all great and offer excellent setting space. The 60, and Slab Wall can benefit the most from improvements and the 30 to Vert and Short 15 are somewhat forgotten about a week or so after a new set. I enjoy climbing on all the walls (except The Slab), but the smaller ones don’t offer anything the bigger ones don’t already do better. More moves, longer moves, etc.
The hold selection has been an area of great improvement. When I first came to ClimbTime 5 yeas ago the holds were primarily on the older side. I still love and appreciate many of those holds (Voodoo anyone!?), but getting some new stuff from Pusher, Kilter, E-Grips, etc. is always a good thing.
The grading and route identification I find to be the best of any gym. It uses tape and has three ‘brackets’. Technically four, but the first is not a bracket.
– Black Tape == V0
– Single Color == V1-V3 (‘solids’)
– Two Colors == V4-V6 (‘stripes’)
– Single Color + Dot == V7+ (‘dots’)
It’s immediately obvious which grade range you are about to attempt and allows for a better cushion for the setters. I see no reason to set to a specific grade, when a range encourages much more growth. If a new climber is trying to break into V4s, there is this idea that trying anything harder is a wasted effort. I find the opposite to be true! When I first started climbing ‘dots’ I remember trying dozens and dozens of individual moves before one particular problem started coming together.
There can be more consistency across the board however — sometimes someone will use two dots, or skinny tape, or tape with a pattern on it. For someone who’s been in the gym for a long time that is a non-issue, but for a new climber it’s another layer of information to take in.
To comment on the overall style, it’s what I could consider traditional. No gymnastic, USAC style boulders with run starts or paddle dynos across multiple holds. It is hard deadpoints, technical crimping, tenuous slopers, and big pinch moves. There is plenty of dynamic climbing at ClimbTime, but it’s planted in the reality of what outdoor climbing is more than anything.
The ‘aesthetic’ nature of ClimbTime is definitely grunge. The walls are old, the AC is limited (as is the heater in the winter), but it’s not trying to be anything other than an old-school bouldering gym.
The training area has gone through some improvements over the years. For the longest time the campus board was a random assortment of wooden rungs and rods screwed into the board. Now it’s Woodgrips at the proper spacing. There are a few crimp hangboards, a sloper hangboard, and rings as well. A decent selection of free weights and kettlebells, but only a bar or two. Most of the weights are usually found attached to someone’s harness.
There are improvements I think could really allow this gym to excel and return to the king of bouldering gyms. It doesn’t need a state of the art training facility, or a cafe, or whatever new thing a mega gym has, but rather a return to its roots. Remove (or limit) the TR sections, restructure the 60-degree cave so it is more in-line design wise with the rest of the gym. It’s the most ‘featured’ wall in the gym and I find that to be a detractor more than anything. There is a great 15-degree wall attached to the slab section that would be even better if it could be twice as wide. Remove the dead-vert TR section and turn that into some amazing technical climbing. It’s wide enough that a shallow slab section could be added toward one end and still preserve that portion of the gym. Allow members who have been ‘vetted’ to volunteer set. If they are qualified and the liability is limited that will only improve and encourage more variety in the setting. At any rate, I digress.
The staff and community at ClimbTime are second to none! Having been a member for over 5 years I can say everyone that works there is friendly, excited, and happy to be there. The setters are all unique in their own ways, but ultimately they care about the people who climb and want to see everyone improve.
The community is my favorite thing about climbing at ClimbTime. My family is truly the people I climb with and share everything with. They love and care about me, and I them! Shout-out to family– Dan Rush Michelle Cecilia RushTaylor Frohmiller Sarah Rottenberger Marc Ubaldi YunYun Zhuang Sara Nienaber Brian Caha Leah Merchant Dean Fox Boulder Megan Reed Sara Elizabeth Linz and Dave Linz (the socialmedialess) Without them ClimbTime would just be like any other gym. I’m blessed and grateful to know each and every one of them!
If you stuck through to the end I want to say thank you, and I appreciate you! Thanks everyone for the encouraging words (and friendly jabs) about my reviews. I have several more lined up as I travel back to Charlotte and then eventually to Phoenix in August!
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1: ‘The 30’
2: ‘The 45’
3: ‘The Lead Wall + Cave’