Bolder Climbing Community

Story by Holly Maller.
Photos by Max Foley.

It’s no secret that many businesses prioritize profit and gain over community, but Bolder Climbing Community has shown that success can, in fact, be heightened by remaining true to your grassroots.

Growing up around Calgary, Craig Doram, Josh Muller and Zak McGurk of Bolder – Calgary’s first bouldering-specific climbing facility – have made it a priority to invest in their city. From equipment to beverages, Bolder strives to use locally sourced products.

Doram and Muller had previously worked – and been laid off – in the oil and gas industry, while McGurk was unsatisfied working as a graphic designer. What some may perceive as misfortune, these men saw as an opportunity to turn their passion into a career.

Ranging from 28 to 31 years old, the three friends have been a part of the tight-knit climbing community for what feels like “forever.”

“This is obviously something that we are all very passionate about and there’s a lot of experience between the three of us,” states Muller as we chatted in the vibrant southeast facility, listening to groovy beats with an Americano in hand. “We knew what we wanted and we had a very strong vision of that.”

“It was definitely a steep learning curve,” adds McGurk. “Sure, we had a strong vision, but there was the other technical and business related aspects that we weren’t so experienced with.”

Difficult, but enjoyable is how they describe the overall expensive and time-consuming process. Despite the bumps they may have faced, they couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out, explaining that the response within the climbing community has been “overwhelming.”

Five months ago, after more than a year and a half of planning and preparation, Bolder Climbing Community opened its doors.

With a café hosting Doram’s home-roasted coffee beans, unique picnic tables to sip it at, and an upstairs lounging area for stretching, climbers can relax and enjoy not only a physical workout but also time spent with friends old and new.

While skilled climbers can challenge themselves on difficult routes, inexperienced climbers can enjoy beginner level sections and have the option to partake in a quick, free tutorial with a staff member.

Being climbers within the community, these men understand that bouldering – and rock climbing in general – can be quite intimidating. By hosting individualized programs such as women’s workshops, youth groups, and personal training, Bolder helps to break down the barriers of intimidation for those who may fear certain aspects of the sport.

Aside from how awesome the actual climbing facility is, Bolder Climbing Community’s main goal was to create exactly what their name states: a community. And, as McGurk explains, building community goes far beyond a simple workout.

“We really want people to come and hang out in this space. You come and climb, you sit down and have a coffee and chat with your friends. You stay a lot longer than just coming and working out.”

Check out Bolder Climbing Community on Instagram and their website.