Harry van Oort climbs in the cave in his Revelstoke home. He says it took a while to get all of his holds, which come from a variety of places, such as rock from California and Jasper, wood, fellow climbers, and purchased. Photo: Matt Timmins

There is no question that Revelstoke boasts epic winters and summers, but the often dreaded shoulder season, with cooler, wet weather and sometimes marginal conditions for outdoor activities can feel like it drags for eons. That is, unless, you have an indoor climbing gym in your home.

With no public indoor climbing gym, many locals have taken it upon themselves, building their own walls, caves and gyms.

Clockwise from left to right, Lisa Cyr, Evie Cherry, James Eger, Frank Hildebrand, Alexandra Dubois, David Hill and James Cherry climb in The Crackhouse. The gym has a moving treadwall (in right of frame), seven wingate style cracks and a kids climbing area. Photo: Matt Timmins
Clockwise from left to right, Lisa Cyr, Evie Cherry, James Eger, Frank Hildebrand, Alexandra Dubois, David Hill and James Cherry climb in The Crackhouse. The gym has a moving treadwall (in right of frame), seven wingate style cracks and a kids climbing area. Photo: Matt Timmins

For Harry van Oort and Mandy Kellner, building a climbing cave in their basement was the first thing they did when they moved to Revelstoke in 2004.

Like many others in town, they had to build their own cave, says van Oort, a board member of the Revelstoke Climbers Access Society says, as there wasn’t (and still isn’t) an indoor gym in town.

While he once thought of having a ‘rotating crag’ community group of locals going to each other’s houses to climb every week, he said his wall has become more of an evening thing, mostly for him and his wife, and sporadically for friends.

Manuela Arnold climbs on the wall in her garage at her home in Revelstoke. Her and her husband, Ryan, remove the holds on the wall and re-set them to give them different routes to climb. Photo: Matt Timmins
Manuela Arnold climbs on the wall in her garage at her home in Revelstoke. Her and her husband, Ryan, remove the holds on the wall and re-set them to give them different routes to climb. Photo: Matt Timmins

Van Oort and Kellner think an indoor gym in Revelstoke would be great for the city, but for now, they climb in their home.

“It would be a huge game-changer. It would be awesome for the community and also for the sport of climbing in Revelstoke,” Harry says, pointing out that it gives kids something to do on a rainy day — teenagers in particular.

Already, some locals have done their part to bring indoor climbing onto the Revelstoke scene, albeit an underground scene.

One of them is James Cherry, the founder of what has become known as The Crackhouse, an indoor climbing gym built on his property by himself and a handful of local volunteers and woofers.

Alexandra Dubois climbs on the treadwall at the gym in James Cherry's home. Photo: Matt Timmins
Alexandra Dubois climbs on the treadwall at the gym in James Cherry’s home. Photo: Matt Timmins

Named after the 7 wingate style cracks built into the walls, The Crackhouse is a high-ceiling, multi-walled gym, which includes a kids’ area and a moving treadwall. After a call for volunteers over the winter, a complete demolish and re-framing of the building led to the community project, which even has a bed in the loft where volunteers could sleep while helping with the build.

Revelstoke doesn’t have that many serious climbers compared to some other climbing towns, says van Oort, who donated some holds to The Crackhouse, “But James, he’s the guy that made it (a community thing). I think this winter we’ll see his gym take on a bit more; I’m going to go over there more. It’s a great climbing scene at James’.”

The gym took about a year to build, Cherry says, and with exception of the treadwall, is built from nearly all recycled material. He says the treadwall was something he always wanted and never expects to get the money back, as he currently doesn’t charge for the use of the gym.

Frank Hildebrand climbs at The Crackhouse while James Cherry looks on. The climbing gym was built by Cherry and a handful of volunteers at his home in Revelstoke. Photo: Matt Timmins
Frank Hildebrand climbs at The Crackhouse while James Cherry looks on. The climbing gym was built by Cherry and a handful of volunteers at his home in Revelstoke. Photo: Matt Timmins

Cherry’s vision was to make The Crackhouse a community project, and a place to climb in the rainy season and winter days, (or this summer, avoid the mosquitoes at the crags). Still in its first year, he expects it to become more popular as winter approaches.

While Cherry’s gym may be the largest and becoming the most known in town, prior to his built, other locals have taken it upon themselves to make climbing a year-round sport in Revelstoke.

When Manuela Arnold and her husband Ryan Williams were looking for a house to rent (and eventually buy) a key factor in the one they chose was the built-in climbing wall in a separated garage. It was also big reason Brad Patchin and Kristin Demchuk, the house’s previous owners, chose them as tenants.

Manuela Arnold climbs on the wall in her garage at her home in Revelstoke. Her and her husband chose their home because of the wall in it, which was built by the previous owners. Photo: Matt Timmins
Manuela Arnold climbs on the wall in her garage at her home in Revelstoke. Her and her husband chose their home because of the wall in it, which was built by the previous owners. Photo: Matt Timmins

“They wanted to rent it to us because we were stoked on the wall,” Arnold says, “and they put their heart and soul into building it and didn’t want it taken down.”

In the summer the couple hardly use the wall at all as they are always doing outdoor activities. But as the days get shorter and winter approaches, Arnold says they will use it more, including many days of half skiing, half climbing in the winter.

With a wall that would be considered large for in-home climbing, and plenty of space to accommodate friends, Arnold says it is mainly her and her husband that uses it.

And a slightly different wall: the fireplace at the Bison Lodge at Revelstoke Mountain Resort features a rock climbing wall with a built in harness system. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
And a slightly different wall: the fireplace at the Bison Lodge at Revelstoke Mountain Resort features a rock climbing wall with a built in auto belay system. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

“It’s nice to climb with other people, but once winter comes around, you often don’t hear from them too much,” she says, adding that they are more into winter sports.

She still does know a lot of people in town who climb over the winter for training, but most of them have their own gyms in their houses and simply use them instead of going elsewhere.

“We used to climb (at a friend’s wall), quite a bit,” she says, but now that they have their own, they mostly climb at home. Come winter, Arnold also says she will try out Cherry’s gym as well.

A proposal for an indoor climbing gym in Revelstoke is already in the works, but for now, van Oort suggests that climbing isn’t a very ‘clubby’ sport, emphasizing that most serious climbers use their own homes at the moment. “There aren’t many people that want to train (in the winter), and those people that do have built their own wall, because they had to.”

But perhaps The Crackhouse marks the beginning of the end of Revelstoke’s solitary climbing scene in basements and garages. As it heads into its first winter, climbing in Revelstoke has nowhere to go but up.

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Matthew Timmins
Matthew Timmins is an Ontario-born photographer with a background in photojournalism. After working at local newspapers in Canmore, Banff and Jasper, he moved to Revelstoke for three years. He has spent the last two years travelling in New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia and Northern Europe. He now lives in Revelstoke again and can be reached at 226-688-8528.