Epic Indoor Climbing in Thunder Bay
More than 6,000 square feet of climbing terrain. More than 4,000 handholds. Walls up to 31 feet high. Routes rated 5.5 to 5.13. As climbers like to say, it’s going to be epic! Boulder Bear Climbing Centre is Thunder Bay’s newest indoor rec area and it’s a hotly anticipated addition to the city’s growing climbing community.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. You’re in good hands
As owner Dallas Markall says, the centre is designed by climbers for climbers. Markall has been rock climbing around the northwest for 23 years and has led trips for the Manitoba and Thunder Bay chapters of the Alpine Club of Canada. He planned out the climbing walls with a company that specializes in climbing centre construction. “The angles of the walls and the features they create—the overhangs, curves, bends, erects—are what sets us apart,” he says. Together with one of his instructors, Zach Watson, a six-year member of the national youth climbing team and one of Canada’s top climbers, he set a variety of routes that work for beginners and advanced climbers, and everyone in between. There are nine climbing instructors on staff.
2. You’ve got options
Buy a membership, book a lesson for a child or adult, rent gear, drop by for an individual climb with your own gear—choose what works for you. Boulder Bear is also available for corporate, school or community group bookings and kids’ birthday parties, along with a 600-square-foot multipurpose room. Plus, it’s located in the Auditorium building on the CLE grounds (formerly the bingo hall), so you could easily spend the day: climb, climb, climb at Boulder Bear, shop at the Thunder Bay Country Market and catch a movie at SilverCity.
3. You can work out and stre-e-e-etch out too
There are five yoga instructors on staff, so multiple yoga classes are on offer throughout the day and evening, all in an adjacent yoga studio. Classes are available on a drop-in basis or through a membership package. “Yoga complements climbing—they both require core strength, flexibility and focus,” points out Markall. You can work on your cardio and strength at the fitness area beside the climbing walls, which includes PowerTec weights, Master spin bikes and a Concept 2 rowing machine.
4. You can grab a snack
Locally run Climbing Vines Café offers smoothies, homemade soups and sandwiches, desserts and coffee. Relax with your meal in the 2,000-square-foot dining and concession area which is outfitted with picnic tables made from massive boards from a local rural property, and be sure to check out the oversized colour photos of various outdoor rock and ice climbing adventures from around the northwest.
5. There’s more to come
“Eventually we want to branch out into outdoor tourism and facilitate kayaking, mountain biking and hiking through the centre,” says Markall. “We want to create an outdoor adventure community, and be a hub for climbers and non-climbers alike.” Markall, formerly a police officer with 15 years on the job, also wants to offer programing for youth at risk and marginalized communities. “Climbing can really be a way to effect change,” he says, adding that he loves the mental discipline of climbing, of being able to shut everything else out and just focus on the climb.
6. And one last thing…
So why is it called Boulder Bear? Markall’s family owns a big brown Newfoundland dog named Boulder Bear. “My kids thought it would be a great name for a climbing centre too!” laughs Markall.