Bouldering differs from other forms of rock climbing in a variety of ways, such as its heightened social element. When top roping, for example, climbers are more isolated, relying on a partner below to maintain rope tension. But because bouldering is done on lower courses that don't require a rope or harness, climbers are free to scale walls at will, often resulting in people sharing walls and striking up conversations in between surmounting terrain such as verticals, slabs, and roof climbs—overhangs that put climbers' bodies parallel to the floor.
That's how The Circuit Bouldering Gym got started. Some bouldering enthusiasts crossed paths at a local gym and found they all wanted to expand Portland's bouldering options. Today, they welcome guests to surmount courses—including a hanging boulder—ranging from 8- to 17-feet high and surrounded by crash-pad flooring. Boasting one of the largest bouldering-only gyms in the world, they also designed many of their simulated climbing stations as top-out boulders, letting guests experience what it's like to stand atop a boulder in the Rockies or on the moon. Additionally, they instruct guests with programs such as 90-minute intro courses, four-week movement clinics, and programs tailored for kids. Between climbs, a lounge area lets visitors relax and swap tales of defying gravity's relentless bullying. To further build the bouldering community, the gym's team organizes an annual fundraiser benefiting local charities, including the Portland Boulder Rally which is held on Oct. 12.
Stoneworks Climbing Gym's climbers while away their days on the gym's vast top-rope, lead, and bouldering walls. The walls soar to the ceiling and bear holds with multicolored tape to delineate each climbing route, which start at 5.6 and vary in difficulty. The diverse set of routes and climbing difficulties have made Stoneworks an ideal gym for climbing the past 20 years and for competitions, such as the annual Boulder Joust.
Avid climbers themselves, the route setters and staff at Stoneworks are also guides, leading teams of beginner and skilled climbers into the mountains of Oregon for outdoor climbing. They also equip members with the skills needed to scale their routes in both group and private lessons that focus on technique, sport climbing, and vertical Twister. Kids are welcome to join the junior climbing team or summer camps.
At Stone Free Climbing, rock climbing isn't an indoor sport. The company's experienced guides lead day and weekend trips to natural rock formations, such as Smith National Park's volcanic tuft. Each trip accommodates new and seasoned climbers alike, and adventurers can leave their suction clogs at home since all necessary gear is provided. To prep ambitious scalers for solo jaunts, the Stone Free Climbing experts also lead mountain navigation courses, teaching students to use GPS equipment, find routes, and read topographical maps.
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As part of its mission to trumpet the joys of natural living and community-fueled sustainability, Common Circle Education conducts a Sustainability in Motion tour, teaming bicyclists up with a like-minded biker gang of 20–40 riders for a scenic week of riding, eating, camping, and learning. Each tour begins with a guide leading the group through bike safety and mechanical fundamentals before escorting them out onto scenic, low-traffic farm roads. Pedal pushers spend the week eating healthy, organic vegan fare, visiting organic farms, and biking anywhere from two to six hours (20–60 miles) every other day. During nonbiking days, the group absorbs the productive philosophies of permaculture, sustainability, and regenerative design via hands-on activities—providing a productive respite from mind-numbing TV shows such as News, Sport, and Louder News.
A young woman is 30 feet in the air as she slowly stretches for a bright-colored grip. Grabbing hold, she makes a series of methodical movements, her limbs pushing and pulling her core up a vast wall. Her belay partner below takes up the last bit of rope slack as she climbs to the top of the wall. The climber raises her arms in triumph just as Johnny Cash sings the last few bars of "Folsom Prison Blues."
The Source Climbing Center staff often spins records by "the man in black" and other favorite artists. Playing tunes on the 6,000-square-foot facility's booming sound system is part of cofounders Michael Lary and Guruhans Kroesen's effort to create a pleasurable indoor ambiance for their clientele of outdoorsy climbing enthusiasts. The building, developed specifically to be a climbing center, keeps members busy with top-rope and lead climbing walls, plus 1,200 feet of bouldering terrain. They designed their air-conditioned rock scaler's paradise with a wall of east-facing windows 32 feet tall, allowing early morning sun to wash over visitors enjoying daybreak climbs, just as they do when climbing a faraway mountain or helping the Mount Rushmore presidents floss.
A short online video presentation and a computer-generated animated tour provide a closer look at the building's design features.:m]]