Portland Rock Gym – Private Guiding

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What’s to Love:  A couple of years ago, I wrote an article called “Gym to Crag,” where I highlighted Portland Rock Gym’s (PRG) excellent outdoor climbing program that is specifically designed to get indoor climbers out on real rock. By heading out to local crags, climbers can start to build an appreciation and love for the environment, what it takes to maintain crags, how to climb responsibly, and definitely gain a new appreciation for the grade of 5.9+. For those of you who want to “kick it up a notch” and personalize your outdoor fun, or who want to take the whole family out, I recommend hiring a private guide at Portland Rock Gym.

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Gym to Crag – Portland Rock Gym

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broughton7What’s to Love:  Around 1987/88, I walked into an indoor climbing gym called “Inside Moves” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was a college student looking for something different to do in my free time. On my first visit, I climbed up a 15 foot wall wearing hiking boots and feeling terrified that my belayer would never be able to catch my fall. When I got to the top, it took me awhile to actually let go of the holds. I was literally frozen with fear. I felt like if I let go, I might free fall quickly to the floor.

Minutes later and safely on the ground, I had that feeling of true love. I knew that climbing would be a part of my life for as long as I’m able to physically do it.  I was 19 years old during that first experience, I’m now 44 years and climbing is even a bigger part of my life now.

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Leavenworth, WA – Summer Edition

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Leavenworth, WashingtonWhat’s to Love:  If your family is into outdoor adventure, Leavenworth, WA is an ABSOLUTE must!  It’s a relatively-short, 5-hour drive to some of the best outdoor recreation you could possibly imagine: mountain biking, road biking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, traditional rock climbing, sport climbing, and some of the best bouldering in the country.  For outdoor enthusiasts, Leavenworth is like a dream come true. 

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Interview: Portland Rock Gym’s Anna Rymill

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Do you and/or your kids want to learn to rock climb?  Here is your chance. Portland Rock Gym (PRG) is offering a 2 for 1 “Introduction to Climbing” course just for Portland Family Adventures! Learning in the gym is the best way to get started with the basics, and it’s a great workout as well. Just click the ad, print the coupon, and bring it to the gym. Here is an interview with PRG employee Anna Rymill.


Portland Family Adventures (PFA):  Who are you and what’s your job at PRG?

Anna:  My name is Anna and I’m a manager at the PRG.

PFA:  How did you get started in climbing and what do you find so compelling about the sport?

Anna:  I started climbing a few years ago on a whim.  It was something I had always wanted to try but growing up in Michigan I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get on the rock.  When I moved out to Oregon I made climbing one of my goals and have been trying to push myself and my limits in the sport ever since.  The first time I tried climbing was outdoors and when I reached the top of French’s Dome in the Mt Hood National Forest I was in awe!  It was an amazing feeling and one I want to be able to repeat for the rest of my life.

Climbing allows access to some very beautiful places.  I love exploring new areas and climbing on different types of rock.  Nothing beats spending a beautiful day outside with friends doing what you love!  Climbing indoors is a great way to stay in shape.  Climbing is full body conditioning and after a nice long session you will feel it!  The whole time you’re doing it, most likely with one or more partners, you’re having fun.  You don’t have your headphones on; you’re fully engaged in the activity and with your peers.

Climbing challenges you not only physically but also mentally.  It requires getting out of your comfort zone and seeing how far you can push yourself.  Repeatedly doing that builds self-confidence and self-assurance, among other things.  These are highly valuable traits both on and off the rock!


PFA:  Being originally established in 1988, The Portland Rock Gym is a beloved institution in the NW climbing scene.  While some businesses have been hit hard by the economic downturn, PRG continues to thrive and even expand.  What is the secret to PRG’s success?

Anna:  The secret to the Portland Rock Gym’s success is definitely it’s loyal customers!  The PRG has been part of the Portland climbing community for 25 years and many of our members have been with us ever since.  PRG provides customers with an awesome facility to train and hone skills or create new ones if you’re just starting out.  PRG is always trying to improve both the gym and the benefits to being a member.  All that work goes a long way and is appreciated by our customers who keep coming back.

This past summer PRG had it’s biggest facelift since being at the current location (2003).  PRG added almost 3000 sq ft of climbing terrain and resurfaced and repainted all the existing walls.  With the upgrade came a TON of new holds for the new walls.  PRG was fortunate and is thankful to be able to provide a whole new climbing experience for its customers.  They give us so much and without them the Portland Rock Gym wouldn’t be possible!

Climbing overall has seen a rise in popularity over the last 10 years and with that brings a new demographic of customers to the gym.  Youth climbing has become enormously popular.  Climbing is no longer seen as a rogue sport but instead something the whole family can enjoy together!

PFA:  There is no doubt in my mind that many kids love to climb, one way for them to get started is to take an introductory course at PRG? Can you tell us a little about the introductory course and what they can expect? 

Anna:  The Introductory Lesson is a great option for kids or families looking to get started in climbing.  This course will teach you everything you need to know to get started top roping indoors.  It will teach you how belay, how to tie in as the climber, rope management, safety skills and various commands.  It also comes with a FREE week of climbing and gear rental!  For a week after the class every time you come in, your day pass and gear rental are all included.

Kids 12 years of age and older are eligible to take the Introductory Lesson.  It’s a great option for either siblings or a parent and child.  If you have two siblings it is something they can learn and continue to come back to the gym and do together.    For a parent and child it’s an awesome activity to do together.  It gives parents a fun and healthy option to do with their child at any time.

PFA:  If kids are under 12 years old, what options do they have at PRG?  What is the minimum age requirement?

Anna:  For kids under 12 years of age there are still plenty of options.  Kids of any age can always come in with their parent or legal guardian and climb either on belay (if their parent has prior belay experience/knowledge) or in the bouldering area.  If their parent doesn’t know how to belay they can use the auto-belays or go into the bouldering area.

However, bouldering can be a bit trickier with young kids since they aren’t attached to a rope to catch them when they fall.  They fall onto big pads but parents need to make sure those pads are there for the kids and positioned in the appropriate spot so they don’t hit a corner and twist their ankle.  I believe climbing on a rope is a much better option for young ones.

For kids 6 – 11 years old PRG offers the Kids Klimb.  Kids Klimb is every Saturday and Sunday and Portland Public School holiday from 1-4pm.  PRG staff belay kids during this time.  Parents just get to watch or take pictures and encourage their children to the top!

PRG also has a Youth Climbing Club that meets every Wednesday and/or Friday afternoon from 4-5:30.  This is also for ages 6-11 and is a fun after school activity to help burn off some energy before heading home.

During the winter, spring, and summer breaks PRG offers Climbing Camps.  These are 4 day long camps that help kids build or improve skills.  We have a huge facility that allows us to set up some really cool activities during the camps.  Kids will climb to the top of the Cargo Net hanging from the ceiling and go for a ride on the King Swing!  They get a lot of climbing time in the camps but again the size of the building allows us to do other really cool activities that aren’t offered locally anywhere else.


PFA:  Certainly, some parents will feel like climbing is too dangerous, and as a climber myself, I’m aware of inherent risks every time I rope up.  However, statistically, I think that I have a far greater chance getting injured in a car accident on my way to the gym or crag.  For parents with anxiety, what can you tell them about safety and PRG?

Anna:  The Portland Rock Gym prides itself on providing an environment where climbing can be done safely.  Before customers are allowed to rope up they must pass a belay check to make sure they are using the equipment properly and tying their knot correctly.  This includes PRG staff!  All of our staff members are climbers and have a lot of experience participating in climbing and teaching.  PRG staff members will always make sure everything is in order before we belay kids or adults.  We’ll also make sure families understand how to properly use the auto-belays.  If someone is interested in bouldering we will explain to them proper spotting technique as well as appropriate crash pad placement.

As I mentioned earlier, ropes climbing is a great activity for young kids because it takes the falling element out of the game.  When a child falls on belay they don’t go anywhere, they just hang in space until they get back on the wall.  Falling while bouldering can be potentially more dangerous because you fall however many feet until you hit the ground.  Although, done correctly you can lessen the chances of having a bad fall.  Proper spotting and using a crash pad, as well as down climbing from routes, will all help keep kids and adults injury free.

I think that is the best aspect of the Portland Rock Gym.  We offer both ropes climbing and bouldering.  It offers the customer more options so depending on what you’re after or where your comfort level is at PRG can accommodate you.

PFA:  Finally, what are some of your favorite places to climb both locally and around the US?

Anna:  I’ll climb anywhere!  Locally, I enjoy climbing at Broughton’s Bluff, Beacon Rock or Carver in the summer.  All 3 locations are super close to Portland and offer great climbing.  Of course when I’m able to go a little further like Smith or Leavenworth I’ll take those too!  Smith is a world class climbing destination and there are great routes both sport and trad.

My favorite place to climb is usually the last place I went to (haha).  Right now that would be Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.  It’s a beautiful spot, commonly described as magical.  It’s a very fitting adjective.  I can’t wait to get back!

I’ll be heading to Ecuador to do some climbing over the holidays so I’m sure when I return that will be my new favorite spot.

Thank You Portland Family Adventures!!!

Club Sport Adventure Center

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DSC03884What’s to Love:  For years I’ve been hearing about Club Sport’s giant climbing walls, which are up to 45 feet tall! According to their website, Club Sport’s Adventure Center is the largest climbing facility (11, 500 square feet) in Oregon. The Center offers a nice variety of terrain including bouldering, steep lead climbing, a chimney area, slabs, and some cracks. Until last week, Club Sport’s mega walls have eluded our sending attempts. During our recent visit, we had a pleasant experience highlighted by a clean and open atmosphere featuring outstanding route setting.

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Learn to Climb: Chockstone Guides

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Smith Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  The picture featured above is Jim Ablao of Chockstone Climbing Guides.  Our family has climbed with him in the past at Smith Rock State Park. When Jim is working, it’s a sure bet that he’ll be sporting a big smile on his face. Right before I took the aforementioned picture, I asked him, “Another great day at the office, huh?”  Jim obviously loves his work as a climbing guide, but he also has a love for climbing, which shows in his enthusiasm (and competence) as a a guide.  If you’re looking to take your family out, or you want to give rock climbing at try at one of the world’s premier climbing areas, get in contact with Jim as soon as possible.  The fall is a great time to climb at Smith.

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Government Cove Peninsula

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Government CoveWhat’s to Love:  I know I’ve been a bit heavy on climbing destinations lately, but Government Cove is a little gem that provides more than rock climbing, scrambling, and bouldering.  This is a relatively undeveloped location (i.e., no fees, no restrooms, no water, no parking area, etc.). Despite that fact, the entire area was very clean with some nice paved and unpaved trails for hiking and biking.

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Beacon Rock State Park

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Beacon Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  Being a climber, I’ve always been fascinated, and a bit intimidated, by the 848 foot high monolith – “Beacon Rock.” So intimidated that my first trip to the top was along the mile-long paved walkway and not roped-up hanging off the side of the rock. While the hike (1.8 miles round trip) to the top and back is exhilerating, the volcanic core is just a small piece of the whole picture.  Upon further exploration, you’ll see that Beacon Rock has much to offer the whole family.

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Horsethief Lake State Park

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Horsethief ButteWhat’s to Love:  Horsethief Lake State Park and Horsethief Butte provide a nice one-two-punch for a full-day family outing.  Located about 90 miles east (via WA 14 or OR 84), you might try these two destinations for an adventurous combination of camping, technical rock climbing, rock scrambling, bouldering, hiking, boating, and fishing. For reviews on outdoor gear, visit GearWeAre.com. This link covers family tents.

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Rocky Butte – Joseph Wood Hill Park

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Rocky Butte - Joseph Wood Hill ParkWhat’s to Love:  I’ve explored the rock climbing area up at Rocky Butte many times.  I’ve been turned off by the trash and noise from highway 205, which runs underneath the bluff.  The climbing itself looks pretty good and worth a shot.  I’ll give that a try this summer with the kids.  This trip, I was interested in exploring the structure on the summit of Rocky Butte, which I’ve heard offers excellent bouldering.

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Rock Climbing at Smith Rock!

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If climbing with kids at Smith Rock, I recommend Jim Albao of Chockstone Climbing Guides. Jim has over 18 years of experience and works well with children.

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