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Boulders Climbing Gym, Madison WI?
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By Chad Miller
From Grand Junction, CO
Jan 11, 2013
Smile for the camera.  Me topping out of Pice of Cake, Taylors Falls MN <br />
Hello everyone!

I'm hoping to get an unbiased review about Boulders Climbing Gym in Madison Wisconsin. I have a potential job opportunity in Madison and wanted to know what the cities one and only climbing gym is like. I know that Devil's Lake is only a hour away but the winters are long up here! I've tried to check out BCG's website but it appears to be developmentally challenged to say the least.

So what's Boulders Climbing Gym like? How tall are the walls? Can you sport lead there? Staff nice? How are the routes?

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By Woodchuck ATC
Jan 11, 2013
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Haven't been there, but hear it is a nice place. They also helped sponsor the great Devils Lake Centennial Challenge climbing comp. for the last 2 years. Good people from what I read.

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By Gokul
Jan 11, 2013
At the "summit"
The routes aren't tall (27 ft, I think), but there's decent variety, good bouldering and friendly staff members. There's maybe a couple dozen or so sport routes. The suckiest thing about Boulders is their website. Also, it can get crowded early evenings on Winter weekdays, but eases off after 8 pm, and they're open till 11 pm, which is nice.

For a change of scene every now and again, it's a little over an hour's drive to Adventure Rock in Pewaukee - taller, pumpier climbs there.

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By Chad Miller
From Grand Junction, CO
Jan 11, 2013
Smile for the camera.  Me topping out of Pice of Cake, Taylors Falls MN <br />
Dang, only 27 feet tall. :(

I guess I'm spoiled with my gym up here in Duluth with it's 45 foot tall walls, almost all leadable with a dozen autobelays.

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By Carl Sherven
Jan 12, 2013
As Gokul mentioned, the ceiling height kinda sucks, but you can still get pretty good pump if you downclimb and do a couple laps. The routes are set pretty densely, so you can do a lap up and down one route, then another, etc. without changing ropes.

Most of their walls have quickdraws, and they've got a nice arch that allows some consistent steep overhang. You can boulder out of the cave and meet up with a route that goes into the arch to make a longer route.

The staff is friendly and easy to work with.

One thing that's always stood out for me is the holds. A guy that used to work there made sets of ceramic holds by hand. They've still got lots of those holds on the walls, and they've got great texture that feels a lot like sandstone. They're also completely unique, unlike most hold sets that you find at every gym.

All in all, pretty good except for the low ceiling and how crowded it can get on weeknights.

We've also got a much smaller climbing wall at the new Union South on the UW campus. If you work downtown it makes for a quick workout if you don't want to go to the east side.

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By stihlhead82
From Belvidere, Il
Jan 18, 2013
climbing genesis I in Hyalite Canyon Bozeman MT
Though ones actions doesn't reflect on everyone, the one staff member I dealt with there was a complete asshole and would never go back. If you could do the drive, vertical endeavors in warrenville Il is a nice gym.

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Jan 18, 2013
Bucky
Carl Sherven wrote:
One thing that's always stood out for me is the holds. A guy that used to work there made sets of ceramic holds by hand. They've still got lots of those holds on the walls, and they've got great texture that feels a lot like sandstone. They're also completely unique, unlike most hold sets that you find at every gym.


Yeah Brian's clay holds are fricking amazing. Probably some of the best holds I have ever used (I think there might have been a second guy that used to make them in addition to Brian too). Brian also designed the gym and I think the "new" bouldering feature that is towards the back of the gym. The height does suck though.

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By Tom Lausch
From Madison WI
Jan 18, 2013
Chips and Salsa
It is a decent place. Seems like there are tons of little brats running around aimlessly. They cater towards boulders (hence the name) and little kid birthday parties. That being said I feel that they are doing the best in the location that they have. The routes may not be super long but they are varied. Each climb seems to come at you a different way. They also listen very closely to what is being put in the suggestion box. I asked for more hard route on the slab wall on a monday and when I came back in on Wed there were 3 new hard routes up. Also the staff is very friendly and does their best to help you have a good time. The clay holds are killer and something that is very special about the gym. The atmosphere is usually very friendly and its easy to pick up a random partner for some quick climbing.

Summary:
Pros: Varied routes, good service, good prices, cool holds, long hours.
Cons: Too many kids, lack of wall height, lack of couples memberships.

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By vinny6
From Madison,WI
Jan 21, 2013
Chad I worked @ Boulders for almost ten years. I also made MANY of the clay holds they use. I can tell you for a fact you'll find friendly people, good/varied routes/problems. As Carl said you can do laps and get a solid route workout in. The gym has changed greatly over the years, and from what I hear will continue to do so. Whether that's a good thing or bad thing I am not sure. we'll have to wait and see. The actual height is 24ft. However you can 80ft of overhanging climbing in if you start in the cave as mentioned and climb through the arch. Besides "The Lake" there are many other climbing areas in Wisconsin within a short drive. If you come here you find Madison to be a cool town with a cool gym.

cheers,
vinny

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By Andrew Schmalzer
Jan 22, 2013
One key factor I like about Boulder's is that there is almost always something new to work on. They usually set every Sunday night, but sometimes have setters putting up new routes/problems during the week.

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By scruff410
From Denver, CO
Jul 10, 2013
I'm fairly new to climbing, only a couple years now, but I've been to over a dozen gyms already and now live in Denver. I go back to visit Madison and hit up Boulders when time permits.
All said, I'm not a fan. The routes are definitely harder than rated, but that's typical of the Midwest and East coast style. Also, the bouldering area gets crazy crowded and somewhat dangerous IMHO. Part of this is the cliques that sit in there and leave little landing space which is also less cushioned with all the squatters.
I agree, they are working with what they have but there's still a lot of work to be done to make this a place to look forward to coming back to.
Save some money, buy a bouldering pad and brave the outdoors instead when in Madison.

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By Ian CB
Jul 12, 2013
Yup. Disagree. Boulders is a good gym with friendly people... and intimidating.... Hmmm, I just don't see it. But you should go climb outside, as there are over a 1000 boulder problems (many good ones too) within an hours drive of madison, along with a stack of good routes (more than a thousand, not sure on the actual count.....)

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By Chris treggE
Administrator
From Madison, WI
Jul 12, 2013
This problem haunted my dreams for 6 years after failing to send in 2008.  Finally got throw a heel over the lip jug -- now I can sleep.  Photo Darin Limvere.
A gym without customers is a gym destined for failure.

There are busy times, Sunday afternoon in the winter for example. However I've never felt crowded out of climbing, and if you talk with the folks working the same problems you are, you just might end up with more climbing partners. If you want the place to yourself, go before noon, you know, before college kids wake up. ;)

Boulders is expanding into the commercial space next door as well, FWIW. New roped area and new boulder, as well as a training area, is the rumor. And, like Ian says, definitely check out Devil's Lake. There just might be a good bouldering guidebook coming out sometime soon.

Finally, it's not sandbagged. Everywhere else is just soft.

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By scruff410
From Denver, CO
Jul 12, 2013
Eh, sandbagged...midwestern humility...it's all the same. ;-)

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