Learning the ropes takes on a whole new meaning when you’re 55-feet in the air and clipped into one.
Still the staff at Ripon’s new Alpine Climbing Adventure Fitness are determined to make rock climbers of all who walk through their doors. The new from-the-ground-up facility on Garrison Road is hard to miss as it cuts an impressive profile when seen from Highway 99.
The combination indoor climbing gym and fitness center opened to the general public this week after a couple months of being open to members only. The ambitious project has been more than five years in the making for Ripon resident and Alpine co-owner Jonathan Meek, who is working with a team of business partners on the development.
Now it’s ready to show itself off, and attract both professional climbers, amateur enthusiasts and total newbies alike.
“This was part of the vision from the very beginning. To create a place where families could all come together,” Meek said. “Come as you are and leave stronger than you came in.”
When you walk into the center, the climbing gym — which has three distinct sections — looms large and colorfully in the background. The largest and tallest section is its most challenging with its belay and rope walls. That section also has the center’s Olympic-sized speed wall, with its dueling lanes for racing.
Gym has ropes, bouldering, children’s climbing walls
The gym’s center section is the bouldering area with a large structure for free climbing. And then there’s the kid-friendly Adventure Center with its beginner walls and play structures.
In all the sections colorful (and ever-changing) holds create a rainbow of color across the gym. This is the area’s second indoor climbing center, but by far the largest such gym in the region. Meek said to find a facility of the same size and scope climbers typically travel to Sacramento or the Bay Area.
But given the center’s proximity to the internationally acclaimed rock climbing destination of Yosemite National Park and the sport’s debut in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, Meek and his business partners bet on the Central Valley’s growing interest in rock climbing as a family recreation.
The center is geared toward all skill levels, with classes and equipment rentals for first-timers and those looking to improve. But climbing is definitely not the only thing you can do at Alpine. The gym also has a full health center with weights and cardio machines on a mezzanine that overlooks the climbing walls. There’s also a yoga studio which offers close to 20 classes a week, all included with membership.
But if you go to a climbing gym, you should probably at least try climbing. To an unathletic, coordinationally challenged person with a visceral fear of heights like me, the prospect of scaling a wall for fun seemed daunting at best. But Meek and Alpine General Manager Tony Levy assured me that, yes, even I could make it up the wall. All you need is comfortable clothes and close-toed shoes to get started.
So myself and Bee photographer Andy Alfaro strapped into some climbing harnesses and gave it a try. We used the easier and shorter walls (though still 25-foot) in the Adventure Center, while 10-years-olds ping-ponged themselves off the nearby structures.
After a brief bit of instruction on how to use the auto-belay (a safety device clipped into a waist harness that catches you in case of a fall and then will lower you back down), it was time to climb.
And, you know what, we both made it to the top. Twice. While it was challenging — especially half way up when my fear of heights kicked in — it was doable even for a person like me whose pandemic fitness level can best be described as sentient sack of potatoes that can type. After reaching the top, you can see how the tangible accomplishment of reaching the summit with nothing but your hands and feet could become addictive.
Indoor climbing center open to all ages, skill levels
Alpine has been open since April for members, and now that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions have been largely lifted it is also open to day pass users who just want to give it a try. So far Meek said people have been coming from across the valley and Bay Area to check out out the facility. They’ve seen people as young as 4 years old and as old as 70 come to climb.
Memberships run $89 a month or $979 annually, and there are discounts for students, teachers, seniors, first-responders, active or ex-military and medical staff. Day passes run $25 a person for those age 13-and-up. Adventure Center day passes are $21 for all ages. And a day pass plus top-rope class costs $45 (which includes gear rental and a one-week membership) for ages 13 and up.
Meek opened the center with a staff of more than 20, which includes climbers from states as far away as Florida and Colorado. And he isn’t done yet. The second phase of the Ripon center will expand its footprint on the more than 2-acre site, and add outdoor features and structures. And then there are the future plans to open two additional Alpine locations in the region. Meek said both projects should be announced by the end of this year.
For Manteca resident Tyler Born, who works as a Ceres firefighter, climbing at Alpine is a whole family affair. His wife and three children — ages 9, 11 and 13 — are all members and they come five, six times a week.
“I like the family atmosphere,” he said. “We get to climb together and get physical fitness and work on challenges together. We’ve come back twice in one day.”
Alpine Climbing Adventure Fitness, at 1450 Garrison Way in Ripon, is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 209-509-4077 or visit climbatalpine.com.