It’s time for another Portland Family Adventures’ (PFA) interview! This time, it’s with one of the many friendly faces you’ll find at The Circuit Bouldering Gym. One evening my kids and I witnessed Quinn’s precise technique on several hard boulder problems. We were all amazed at how she just danced right up the climbs, which looked effortless from the ground. Let’s learn a bit more about Quinn and her role with The Circuit Bouldering Gym.
Well, my name is Quinn and I’m the manager at both Circuit Gyms. Basically I do a little bit of everything.
PFA: For those folks unfamiliar with the word, what is bouldering and why is it gaining popularity right now?
Bouldering is a specific type of rock climbing that lets you climb shorter walls (or boulders outside) without requiring a rope or harness. At the gym, our walls range from 7-16 feet and are protected by a thick, padded floor.
Bouldering has really come into its own as a sport (as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago when it was considered training for “real” climbing). I think a large part of this is due to how easy bouldering is to get into. You can literally just show up and get started climbing, you don’t even need to bring a partner. Since you’re not dealing with a lot of equipment you don’t need to gain a lot of technical knowledge before you can get on the wall.
Additionally bouldering can be much more social which is a huge plus for a lot of people.When you’re climbing ropes you’re either on the wall or down at the bottom focusing on holding the rope for your partner. With bouldering, even if you come by yourself you may be sharing the same wall space with a few other people taking turns trying problems, you’ll always see people working together to figure out how to make it up a climb or just catching up and hanging out in between tries.
PFA: How/when did you get into bouldering/climbing? Please describe what it has meant to your life.
I started climbing when I was 7 years old. My older sisters played indoor soccer at a facility with a climbing wall and so my dad would take me there to kill time during their practices. I was recruited to a climbing team and rope climbed competitively for about 7 years. When I turned 15 I started working at my home gym in Vermont, teaching rope climbing, team building, and outdoor guiding. I’ve been working in climbing ever since.
It’s really hard to fully sum up what climbing has meant to my life. Most of my close friends and role models are climbers. It’s how I spend my free time (and my work time). When I travel, more often than not its for a climbing trip. In a way, climbing is my home, its something I can always come back to that makes sense and feels natural no matter where I am or who I’m with. At this point I’ve been climbing far longer than I haven’t been climbing, so I really just can’t imagine my life without it.
PFA: Personally, I think bouldering is a great skill for kids to learn. I have a feeling you’ll agree with me. However, I’m interested as to why you think bouldering is good for kids. Tell our readers about some of the kid-friendly sections of The Circuit and describe the programs offered specifically for kids?
Bouldering is awesome for kids. Most kids find it to be super fun, its a great way to keep your child active, and the sense of accomplishment they feel after completing a new climb is great for building self esteem. Kids are natural climbers and have really good instinct when it comes to moving on the wall. When you see a child improving at climbing, it’s usually because they are becoming more confident and adventurous as well as learning to apply problem solving techniques in order to figure out how to move from hold to hold. Those traits and skills will apply directly to other areas of their life, especially as they start to grow up.
Having worked with kids in roped climbing and bouldering, I’ve found that a lot of kids respond really well to climbing without ropes since they are totally in control of their own climbing and can start or stop as they please. Logistically bouldering is awesome for kids too because they’ll spend more time on the wall and less time sitting in line waiting for their chance to climb.
At both Circuit gyms we have dedicated kids’ areas with lower walls that kids can climb on top of and then go down a slide to get back to the ground. We don’t have a minimum age to get started climbing, if your child is climbing all over the house or on trees, walls, jungle gyms, etc., they are definitely ready to boulder. Younger kids will probably be happy just sticking to the kid-specific terrain, we do allow all kids to climb anywhere in the gym as long as they are supervised and being respectful of other climbers. Older kids usually spend a little time in the kids’ area getting comfortable before wanting to head out and tackle some of the larger walls.
PFA: If parents want to start climbing with their kids, do you have a good way for them to get started (i.e., learning basic movement, how to recognize routes, proper gym etiquette, etc.)?
The easiest way to get started climbing is to come in and try it! The best way to make sure your child has a great first experience is to be engaged and supportive while their climbing. Encourage them to try different walls and cheer them on as well as making sure that they are staying safe and taking breaks to rest.
If your child is very young, plan (as a parent) on not climbing the first few visits while they get used to the space or team up with a few friends and taking turns climbing and supervising. Initially kids will want to just try all of the walls and explore the gym, if they start getting bored or stuck in a rut, it’s probably time to start learning more specific information like how to follow routes or new techniques. We’re always happy to talk to your about your child’s climbing and suggest next steps.
PFA: Knowing several of the employees, it seems like The Circuit is a great place to work. What do you like most about working there?
I might be biased, but I think working at The Circuit is pretty awesome. The best part for me is definitely the people, both the other staff and our members. Our crew is super excited about climbing and I think it really shows. Our members are the best! They’re really open and friendly. The people that climb here are our heart and soul, and they really set the tone for the gym.
PFA: To wrap-up, what’s your favorite bouldering area (both locally/nationally)?
The answer to this is usually wherever I’ve been climbing last. Regionally, Leavenworth, WA and Squamish, British Columbia are both amazing and anyone climbing in the Northwest should give them a visit.
Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Rocklands in South Africa (about 2 hours north of Cape Town), I think that is probably my single favorite climbing trip that I’ve been on. I loved that place so much that I actually got mad a few times because I knew I’d have to leave. The amount of rock there is amazing and caters to a lot of different styles of climbing. Plus, you’re in Africa so the landscape is just unreal.
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