Chris and Pam Schmick had spent six months cleaning out the scrap metal from their abandoned silos and just finished drilling thousands of holes in its walls. With little time to spare, they prepared for their climbing gym's grand opening on September 2, 1995—a date on which they had already agreed to hold a regional JCCA competition. The effort they've expended in the nearly 20 intervening years shows: today, climbers scramble on top ropes, lead ropes, and more than 20,000 square feet of lava-free climbing surface.
Instructors prepare visitors to surmount the gym's features in a range of classes, such as Rock Gym 101, which is an introduction to top-rope climbing that covers climbing safety, basic technique, and equipment. Once climbers are equipped with gear from the pro-shop, staff shows them around a multi-level bouldering cave, a main climbing area with 30-foot walls shaped by arêtes, cracks, and waves, and the building's five original silos. Elsewhere inside the gym, six auto-belays safely cradle visitors who wish to climb without taking a class.
On a normal day at Climb So iLL, climbers scale a giant eyeball, a purple elephant, and a giant tulip reaching toward the sky. These structures, inspired by Lewis Carroll and created by an architectural firm, reflect the gym’s unique aesthetic and a whimsical vision. The walls range in color from slate gray to bright purple, and accent lighting adds to snaking mezzanine levels and a well-stocked pro shop. The gym's modern design, which includes countertops and shop displays crafted from bamboo and recycled car hoods, blends into the original brick interior of the old power plant—from which designers salvaged steel and other debris to fashion the interior.
On each guest's first visit, a staff member escorts them around the facility to get them acquainted with safety protocol. Climbers scale 40 top ropes hung down from walls reaching up to 55 feet, along with smooth angles and overhangs across varied bouldering terrain. In a members-only 24-hour training zone open to all climbers during the day, they can practice navigating small overhangs and other problems. On-site personal trainers and instructors also help hone skill and movement techniques through basic belaying and lead climbing classes. An accredited route-setting team regularly tampers with the gym's routes to keep climbers alert and extra gecko-like. An advanced ventilation system circulates and cools the air by maintaining a constant indoor pressure, and tall windows and skylights keep vertical pathways well-lit.
The event planners at Tikes, Hikes and Bikes send families and kids of all abilities on trips across outdoor trails that foster a love for both nature and exercise. Throughout the year, the organization's team plans excursions ranging from bike rides to hikes and stroller and wheelchair walks. As each journey unfolds, groups may pause to picnic, swap acorn recipes with a squirrel, or forge nature crafts such as bird feeders. To accommodate as many family members as possible, Tikes, Hikes and Bikes' crew posts which trails are paved and wheelchair accessible. They also plan events to benefit child-related charities and encourage kids to pick up trash on each trip, helping protect wildlife from grazing garbage trucks.
A collaboration between Gold's Gym, Title Boxing Club, local cycling studio St. Louis Spinning, and cavernous climbing gym Upper Limits, Bring the Heat poses a challenge that demands unwavering endurance and focus. From the starting date, each participant has one month to conquer 20 visits, whether they're open workout sessions or classes. At the end, all cards with the full 20 punches are entered into a drawing for a three-month gym membership.