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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

It’s nothing but up at bouldering centre

My 9-year-old stared up at the wall in front of him. He was studying the multicoloured hand and footholds attached to the wall in what looked like an intricate puzzle missing some pieces.

“Ok, I’m ready,” he said. With a deep breath, he tentatively placed his climbing shoe onto his first choice of hold, reached out his small hand to grab another, and started to climb. Just minutes later —  after some small slips and a few jittery moments — he touched the top. “Aha! Look what I did,” he called down.

Just one climb and the sport of bouldering acquired an enthusiastic new fan.

Intro to bouldering

If the pandemic’s got your kids scaling the living room furniture, get out of the house and head to Beta Bloc, home of the West Island’s first and only bouldering space.

Though it may look similar to other rock climbing, you scale shorter walls and don’t use ropes or a harness. With bouldering, it’s just you, your climbing shoes, and a bag of chalk. While this might seem a tad risky, nearly all bouldering is done at a relatively low height. At this 14,000-square-foot facility, the climbing walls are 4.5 metres (15 feet) high and offer challenges for all levels.

This activity requires strength, technique, and your brain to figure out the best sequence of moves — called “problems” — a puzzle-like route that can take some working out. “You’re solving what you have to climb,” says Beta Bloc co-owner Julie Kim Sayegh. “Climbing [with ropes] might be more straightforward, but you have to maintain your stamina for a lot longer. The two disciplines are like comparing a sprint and a marathon.”

It's nothing but up at bouldering centre

credit: Christine Latreille

The  staff routinely move around the boulders and hold configurations, creating new challenges for climbers. No prior climbing experience is necessary and participants need a very basic level of strength and fitness. “By developing how to push, how to place yourself, and how to balance your body, your upper body strength will develop,”  Sayegh says.

The circuit system is classified from Intro to Circuits 1-7 — making successfully solving the problems and reaching the top achievable. “Our hope is that anyone who walks in is able to get to the top of the wall at least once,” Sayegh says.

A high level of fulfilment comes with completing a boulder problem that you haven’t been able to finish before and to see improvement in skills and strength. People can keep climbing and progressing their entire lives.

Beginners and families welcome

For people who are new to the sport and want to try it out, employees will explain safety protocols, climbing etiquette, and demonstrate proper falling technique onto the extra thick protective mats. “Our staff takes the time to go around with everyone who comes,” Sayegh says. “We practice how to land on the mats because that can be something that’s intimidating. We’re here to introduce people to climbing and we try to remove any entry barrier so that when people begin they feel confident.”

Bouldering is unique in that it’s a sport that families can practice together. “When parents come with their kids they’ll often end up working on the same problems,” Sayegh says. “We really encourage families to try it out together.” Beginners also don’t need experience or expensive gear to try out the sport — making it easy to get into if you’ve never tried it before. But while bouldering is a great activity for a variety of age groups, Beta Bloc recommends that children wait until they’re 8 to start.

credit: Christine Latreille

Beta Bloc has a pro-shop and rental equipment on-site. There is a training area for adults with weights, yoga balls, and other fitness equipment. Chill out and enjoy a coffee on one of the couches or fuel up the kids with a fresh smoothie or panini from the on-site bistro.

The facility is located at 2180 Hymus Blvd., Dorval. You don’t need to reserve in advance.

For more information, visit betabloc.ca

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