Extreme athletes banded together to design Spartan Races' intense courses orchestrated over standardized distances, each strewn with natural and man-made obstacles to test mind-body fitness, resilience, stamina, and strength, designed to leave participants exhausted and exhilarated. In waves of 200, runners collect smudges and stains as they perform box jumps, haul heavy sandbags, and juke feral linebackers. Depending on where in the world they're participating, the course may be as short as 3 miles or, for extremely practiced athletes, as long as a full marathon.
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.