Posts Tagged ‘gym’

I found a gym.

火石攀岩 - Firestone Rock Climbing Gym

The only gym in the city of Xi’an, in fact. In a city of 8 million people, there is exactly one climbing gym: 火石攀岩体育馆, the Firestone Rock Climbing Gym. Located on the 6th floor of a shopping mall, this 25 foot wall is where the dedicated climbing crew of Xi’an trains daily. And by “crew”, I mean less than 20 people.

More overhanging than the Warehouse?

The gym is run by the man in the picture below, 杨东 (Yang Dong), referred to by his customers as 杨老师 (Teacher Yang). Spending 5 years in Japan, 杨东 started rock climbing by a chance meeting with Yuji Hirayama’s (Japanese rock climbing superstar) former coach, and continued training under him for his entire stay. Having traveled Asia to climb quite a bit, he regales me with stories of Japan, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, beach sport-climbing in Thailand, and the local crags out here in inland China. In an effort to use the empty space on their 6th floor, the shopping mall sought him out to open a climbing gym, in order to attract more customers. Still a relatively new sport to this area, the gym has seen moderate success, and I can only hope that it sees more.

杨东 - The Man in the Xi'an climbing scene

A consistent mid 5.13 climber, 杨东 is also an accomplished comp climber, having taken 3rd place in bouldering at the Chinese National Championships a few years ago. Now, he spends most of his days running his gym, and training the next generation of youth in the sport. Some of the kids that come to work out are ridiculous; an 11 year old girl, having only climbed for 1 year, is already pushing into the mid 5.11’s, and took 2nd place at the national championships this past year. I met another 11 year old boy, also climbing for a year, who was pulling down on V3-V4 problems with ease. Competitions are run a little differently here in China, registration for them is free. However, they’re all completely spread out, and often require a 10 hour train ride and overnight accommodations to participate in. 杨东 travels with all his kids to these events, speaking to the dedication that they all have for this sport.

饺子 - Dumpling

In addition to 杨东, there are a few other employees at the gym that I’ve met. 饺子 (Dumpling) has been climbing for just under a year and a half, but is excited enough to work here full time. 蚂蚁 (Ant) has been in the sport for almost 3 years, and spends most of his days helping to train the youth team. The purple-shirted dreadlocked guy doesn’t speak much, I call him the doleful one. And yes, those are all nicknames, I don’t actually know any of their real names.

Closing Shop

The wall is built from fiberglass and resin, and the holds are all old-fashioned resin-poured as well. I asked 杨东 where they purchased their materials from, and he responded evenly “we make them”. He then reached behind the desk and pulled out a pair of climbing shoes, and said “we make these, too”. Apparently the solution to not having things available for purchase is to simply make them themselves. Ropes, carabiners, and harnesses are still imported via Beijing, but he says it’s simply easier for them to manufacture holds and shoes themselves. It’s actually become a key part of their business, to sell walls to schools and parks in the area.

Routes are set differently at this gym, too. Instead of resetting the wall every few weeks, and mixing the holds about, the current set stays on the wall for about a year. Instead, they take photos of the wall, and draw out different boulder problems and routes on paper, all of which get filed in a large binder for customers to peruse through. “This saves on tape maintenance”, I’m told. It’s not a bad idea for such a small gym, though many of the holds feel pretty greasy as a result. A 10-pass punch-card was 150 RMB (23 USD), so I’m not about to complain.

杨东 has promised me that he’ll take me out to the local granite crag before I leave, to say I’m excited is an understatement. It’s still young, but the climbing scene here is burgeoning rapidly. Through his broken English and my poor Chinese, 杨东 tells me about the 5.14 project he’s working on, and the new mid .12’s that he’s bolted that I should try. They’re every bit as psyched as anyone I’ve met in the USA.

More pictures to come.