How to Build a Climbing Community: 6 Tips for Your Wall

Climbing is exploding in popularity across the U.S. and climbing walls are becoming a staple in cities, at campus recreation centers, at summer camps, and more. Part of the appeal is the unique workout that climbing offers. To finish a route, climbers must combine balance, strength, and coordination to unlock the puzzle of hand holds and foot holds. Often it takes multiple tries before a climber can finish a route clean, but this challenge only adds to the sense of accomplishment when you finally reach that last hold.

At the same time, kids and adults with a wide range of abilities can try climbing. New climbers can start on easier routes while there is unlimited room to advance in the sport. Adaptive climbing is growing in popularity and allows individuals with a wide range of disabilities, from physical to neurological, to participate. Climbing really is a sport for everyone.

Another part of climbing's appeal is the community that it fosters. Climbers often chat during breaks between routes, share beta on routes, and encourage each other to try new or challenging routes. Building this climbing community at your wall can help attract new members and keep current members coming back for more. Community is a significant, if intangible, element of customer retention strategy. The following five tips will help you decide how to build a community at your climbing wall to gain and retain participants:

  1. Friendly Staff

    The staff are your climbing wall will be the first interaction for new members and a core part of the community. Having friendly staff members who make an effort to talk to and get to know climbers will be a key component of make your climbing wall a social hub. Staff with a friendly demeanor who say hi, know and remember the names of regulars, and interact with climbers in the gym will help build a welcoming environment and a community feel.

  2. Orientation

    How do I put on a harness? What do the numbers by each route mean? How do I use the auto belay? There are a number of questions that members will have on their first time to the climbing wall. Provide an orientation and walk through the space to help them feel comfortable and welcome during their first experience.

  3. Make it Easy

    Climbing itself can be difficult, but there are ways to make the experience more accessible for first timers. Add auto belays so that climbers can get on the wall after a quick orientation. They'll be able to immediately experience the sport and get hooked without a big initial commitment.

  4. Classes and Events

    Create an opportunity for those who want to try climbing but may be nervous to go for the first time. Partner with local organizations to hold adaptive climbing events or host skills classes for a wide range of ability levels. Events can encourage climbers to meet others while classes that cover basic skills and techniques are a great way to build confidence. With auto belays, staff are able to easily supervise many people on the wall at the same time.

  5. Competition

    Consider hosting annual climbing competitions that provide opportunities for a wide range of abilities. Start the day with open competition for everyone and then finish with an advanced series that includes more serious prizes. Add food, drinks, and music to make it a spectator event. Volunteering can provide another way for people to connect with the gym and the community even if they are not competing.

  6. Get Social to be Social

    Share photos from the wall and celebrate achievements, from someone's first time on the wall to someone's first time leading 5.10. This will help showcase your climbing wall while also highlighting a range of abilities to make the experience more accessible and inviting.

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