Walls come in all shapes and sizes. They can be tangible, physical barriers impeding the ability to go any further. They can be mental blocks preventing creativity or the will to work. But when it comes to Gemstone Climbing Center, a wall means 13,000 square feet of unique, exciting problems to solve.
Climb as You Are
Gemstone Climbing is a 15,000 square foot facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, that’s home to a yoga studio, a fitness and free weight center, obstacle course training, youth workshops and iconic climbing walls that test the abilities of toddlers to athletes well into their seventies.
“We’re diverse and that’s on purpose,” said Hailey Barnes, co-owner of Gemstone Climbing Center. “It allows us to serve a greater population and make sure as many people as possible can experience the mental, emotional and physical benefits of climbing.”
Adding to their inclusive mission, Gemstone Climbing hosts community events including high school class parties, team building events, holiday and birthday parties, and even concerts.
“We hold regional climbing competitions here, too,” said Hailey. “We attract athletes from the entire region to compete. Everything keeps morphing, growing and becoming more diverse.”
Although they’re a midsize gym by global standards, Gemstone is one of the largest gyms in Idaho. While the inclusion of yoga and fitness classes aren’t unique to a gym of their size, Gemstone does have one thing that sets them apart from other climbing facilities.
“We’re the first 100% ADA accessible climbing gym in the world,” said Hailey. “We know that people with disabilities want to climb 20 feet in the air just as much as anyone else and we’ve worked hard to make sure they have that opportunity here.”
Gaining Ground in the Local Community
Gemstone’s accessibility has made waves in the indoor climbing community, but Hailey said convincing the local population to give climbing a try continues to be a challenge.
“We’re still pretty small,” she said. “Even though we have a big building downtown, people still forget we’re here and the ones that do know we’re here might be scared of climbing or scared of heights, but it’s really just like any other sport – there’s risk involved but it’s worth it.”
As any entrepreneur knows, one of the biggest risks a person can take is the leap from a stable corporate job to owning a start-up business, but after years of climbing with her dad as a kid, Hailey was ready to face that risk head on.
“By profession I’m a civil engineer and I have little kids that keep me busy,” she said. “I saw that this was a fun sport but noticed that not many people get into it because of fear. So a group of us got together and decided a climbing gym would be fantastic for our community. It’d be a place for people to come make friends and test their personal limits. It’s not necessarily a money-maker, but it is a community builder.”
The View From the Top
Fueled by the opportunity to provide new experiences to the people in Idaho, and the added support of fresh ideas from the Twin Falls Economic Development office, Gemstone Climbing Center has continued to grow.
These days, it’s not uncommon to drive in any direction throughout the state and find people from all over the world bouldering or climbing through Idaho’s landscape. Hailey said the key to climbing and personal success is to be open minded.
“It’s like anything else in life; you have to try it a few times. That’s how you overcome what you’re afraid of – keep getting back up and trying again.”