New Columbia Earth Treks site takes climbers to new heights

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Look up when you enter climbing gym Earth Treks’ new Columbia location, and you’ll find yourself staring at seemingly endless walls of neon rocks.

In the climbing gym’s new facility, climbers can find themselves scaling 44-foot-high walls or swinging from one climbing hold to the next in the gym’s rope-free “bouldering” area, now the largest in the state.

The new Columbia location is next door to the current gym on Columbia Gateway Drive, and is an over 42,000-square-foot facility. It is slated to open its doors to the public in the coming weeks, said Matt Elletson, the gym’s climbing center director.

Earth Treks, which has three other locations in Rockville, Timonium and Crystal City, Va., began at the Columbia facility in 1997. A location is planned to open in Baltimore City in 2018.

“Climbing Magazine” named Earth Treks one of the country’s top 10 climbing gyms in 2016. Elletson said the expanded Columbia location, four times its original size, will now be one of the largest in the country.

Elletson said the Columbia site had become too small to accommodate climbers, and suffered from outdated climbing walls, which were wood frame structures. The new walls are made of a metal frame backing and a wood exterior.

With the completion of the three-month, approximately $4 million construction project, Vice President of Retail and Marketing Charlotte Bosley said Earth Treks hopes the number of daily patrons grows to keep better pace with its other, busier locations like Crystal City. Currently, the Columbia location sees approximately 300 to 330 users per day, but with the expanded facility, Bosley said they hope to see 600 to 1,000 people come through the door daily.

The new climbing walls include a variety of difficulty levels, as indicated by the different colored climbing holds, which vary in size and regularity depending on the classification, Elletson said. Earth Treks brought in a team of “route setters” from across the country to create the climbing routes on each walls, Elletson said, which are changed every eight or 12 weeks to keep climbers on their toes.

Earth Treks is now awaiting final occupancy approval from Howard County to open its doors to the public. Elletson said he is excited for the new location and the expanded options it offers patrons.

“I love the people,” he said. “We’re a big family.”

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