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New Routes: Asheville’s Original Climbing Gym Reopens with New Name and Focus on Inclusion

Cultivate Climbing, a refocused version of Asheville’s first-ever climbing gym, re-opened its doors this past fall with a new name under new ownership, along with goals to create a community built on inclusion. Since its opening last fall, the gym has teamed up with local affinity groups such as NC BIPOC Climbers, Ladies Climbing Coalition, and Southeastern Queer Climbers, offering free classes, hosting meet-ups, and discounted passes and gear rentals to the organizations.

Cultivate Climbing, formally known as Climbax, originally opened in the early 1990s, making it not only the first climbing gym in Asheville but one of the first in the country. BRO caught up with Catalina Otero, Cultivate Climbing’s marketing and communications manager, to find out about the gym’s facility upgrades, community outreach, and future plans. 

Photo Courtesy of Cultivate Climbing

BRO: What inspired the partnerships with NC BIPOC Climbers and Southeastern Queer Climbers? 

Otero: As part of our vision to create an inclusive and safe space for all members of the community, we wanted to collaborate with organizations that share our values. We were inspired to form partnerships with NC BIPOC Climbers and Southeastern Queer Climbers to help us create a welcoming environment for BIPOC individuals and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We believe that everyone should have access to the benefits of climbing and we wanted to ensure that we were taking steps to make this a reality for historically underrepresented groups. Our partnership with NC BIPOC Climbers and South Eastern Queer Climbers includes monthly meetups where members of the meetups can receive discounted day passes and gear rates. These partnerships are just one of the many ways we are working to cultivate an inclusive and supportive community at our gym.

BRO: How has this new partnership impacted the climbing gym since its official start in October?

Otero: Since the official start of our partnerships with NC BIPOC Climbers and Southeastern Queer Climbers, we’ve seen a wonderful response from the community. The meetups have been well-attended and have helped to foster a sense of community and belonging. In addition, these partnerships have helped us to better understand the unique needs and perspectives of these communities and have given us the opportunity to improve our overall approach to inclusivity. We’ve been able to learn from the feedback we’ve received and have made changes to ensure that our gym is a safe and welcoming space for everyone. Overall, we feel that these partnerships have been a positive step forward for our gym in creating a more inclusive and supportive community.

Catalina Otero climbs at Cultivate Climbing gym. Photo Courtesy of Cultivate Climbing

BRO: What makes Cultivate Climbing different from other climbing gyms in the region? 

Otero: Our commitment to inclusivity and community building. We offer monthly meetups for community groups such as NC BIPOC Climbers, Southeastern Queer Climbers, and a ladies night in partnership with the Ladies Climbing Coalition. These meetups provide discounted day passes which include gear, and offer a safe and welcoming space for all participants. 

We also set ourselves apart by frequently resetting our routes to provide a constantly challenging experience for our members. Additionally, we offer a variety of instructional programs, from intro to climbing and bouldering classes to lead climbing and fear of falling clinics. We also host a monthly community night, where members and visitors can enjoy free food, merchandise discounts, and participate in activities like ping pong and watch climbing documentaries. 

One of our most unique offerings is our outdoor rock guiding and instruction, provided by our AMGA certified guides. We can take climbers of all levels climbing outdoors to witness the beauty of Western North Carolina.

BRO: Tell us more about what the new partnerships entail for everyone involved—has there been anything unexpected to come from it?

Otero: The partnerships we’ve established have been incredibly positive for everyone involved. We’ve seen a great turnout for the monthly meetups and it’s been wonderful to see friendships and connections develop within these communities. We’ve also been thrilled to see members of these meetups return to our gym and become part of our broader community. One unexpected outcome has been the opportunity to better understand the unique needs and perspectives of these communities, which has helped us to improve our overall approach to inclusivity. Additionally, we’re excited to be hosting our first clothing swap as part of our ladies night meetup, which we hope will further strengthen the sense of community and connection within this group. 

Photo Courtesy of Cultivate Climbing

BRO: Where do you see Cultivate Climbing in the future?

Otero: Moving forward, we hope to continue expanding our reach and engaging with new communities. We want to explore new ways to make climbing more accessible to those who may not have had the opportunity to try it before. We also hope to deepen our relationships with our existing partners and continue to learn from their perspectives and experiences. Our ultimate goal is to create a space where everyone feels seen, heard, and supported. We believe that by continuing to listen and learn, we can grow and evolve to meet the needs of our diverse community. Looking ahead, we see Cultivate Climbing as a leader in the climbing industry for inclusivity, accessibility, and community building.

BRO: What does it mean to you guys to be not only Asheville’s first climbing gym, but one of America’s first as you continue to promote inclusivity in the sport?

Otero: Being Asheville’s first climbing gym and one of the pioneers in the industry is an incredible achievement, and we are honored to have been part of the growth and evolution of the sport. As experts in the field, we are committed to promoting inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our gym, from the programs we offer to the way we interact with our community.

We believe that climbing is a sport that can bring people together, regardless of their background, and we strive to create a welcoming environment where everyone feels comfortable and supported. Every day, we challenge ourselves to find new ways to serve our community and bridge any gaps that exist within the climbing world.

We are passionate about the transformative power of climbing and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives, and we are dedicated to sharing that passion with others. As we continue to evolve and grow, we are excited to see what the future holds and to be at the forefront of the climbing industry, leading the way in inclusivity, diversity, and innovation.

All Photos Courtesy of Cultivate Climbing

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