BORN TO BOULDER
Climbing is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada. The sport is set to make its debut at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, and a new partnership was recently announced between Canadian clothing brand Arct’eryx and Climbing Canada.
New climbing gyms, such as The Boiler Room Belleville, are beginning to pop up around the country, training the next generation of athletes and introducing a record number of people to the sport.
Owner and operator Malek Taleb was first drawn to the Bay of Quinte when he noticed an increasing number of people making the drive out from Quinte West and Belleville to his Kingston location. He saw the need for an indoor climbing gym in Belleville, and recently turned a 5,000 square foot industrial space into a modern climbing gym with tons of boulder problems, which opened in August 2020.
CRAVING A CLIMB?
Bouldering is a form of free-climbing, that is performed either on outdoor rock or indoor artificial walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. With walls averaging between 12-14 feet, and padded mats below, bouldering offers a fun and dynamic challenge, with varying degrees of difficulty to suit all levels, including kids routes.
Malek, a climber of 22 years, first tried climbing in high school. He then joined a climbing club while studying at Queen’s University. While he is proficient in all forms of climbing, he has a fondness for bouldering. “My favourite part of climbing is the problem-solving aspect,” he shares.
Malek is no stranger to the climbing world. He has served as team member for the Canadian National Climbing Team; was on the Board for both the Ontario Climbing Federation and the Canadian Climbing Federation; and trains climbers from all over Canada and abroad.
Three months into opening the Belleville location, Malek was forced to close the gym in accordance with Ontario’s public health lockdowns. He had to contend with a second, even longer closure yet again this spring.
“COVID has been tough, it has made it challenging to grow a business when you can’t operate,” he says. “But it’s something that has been fully out of our control.”
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Despite the challenges, Malek has not let it stop him from continuing to grow and promote the sport. An expanded Kingston location is in the works due to increased demand. On any given day, in both locations, you will see students, athletes, working professionals, families with their children and just about everyone in between having fun on the walls.
Charlotte Buckle, staff member, first began climbing at the Boiler Room in Kingston, before transitioning to Belleville. “The biggest reason I love bouldering is the community it comes with. Complete strangers are willing to support you,” she says.
She now provides orientations to new climbers, offering tips and support to those looking for new challenges, and acts as a friendly face around the gym. “If there is someone around, you had better be ready to become instant friends!”
The future is bright for Malek and the Belleville Boiler Room. When asked about his plans for the gym going forward, he has many great ideas. For starters? Youth programs, a local competition league, training camps and workshops to help improve their climbing techniques.
You can also watch Canadian Climbers Alannah Yip and Sean McColl complete in the three disciplines of sport climbing (bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing) at the Olympic Games this summer.