Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Freestone review

It has been over a year since Missoula finally got itself a climbing gym outside of the university's gym. Upon moving here, it was apparent that the community sorely needed a gym to bring the different factions together and serve as a hub for all types of climbers to gather at to talk shop. So, after months without membership, I ponied up the 50 dollars for a month pass in preparation for an upcoming climbing trip to Bishop in hopes to become a more well-rounded climber, to reintegrate into the climbing community and to see how Freestone has evolved as a gym over this past year. With the membership almost up and the date for departure rapidly approaching, I'm writing a review based on my experiences there.

I first cancelled my membership shortly before the last climbing trip I went on in February to Hueco and have been without a gym and community since. This has allowed me to focus my efforts in Lolo which, ultimately, is the real reason why I have a membership in the first place. The past month of climbing inside has reignited my motivation to get out again and was a reminder to why I left Freestone. The question I kept asking myself was whether or not membership is worth 50 dollars a month?

For the price, Freestone is a poor deal in comparison to most other gyms around the country and price should directly correlate to the quantity and quality of services offered. Most climbing gyms these days offer entire rooms flush with workout equipment, yoga classes, climbing clinics, teams, and host multiple competitions a year, yet we pay as much as these gyms but get a tenth of the services.  That being said, I feel that a day pass should cost more than a pint of beer but less than admission to a movie. The problems set are the only products by which this gym can be judged by as they are the only service that is offered and I feel that the quality of problems does not constitute the price of membership. So, where does my 50 dollars go when I pay for a membership? I hope that the money goes to pay its employees well enough to only have to work one job in this town, instead of the normal 2-4 jobs most people work to just scrape by. If not that then more holds, more walls, more competitions, more equipment to train on, and more community-oriented programs. I feel that Freestone focuses more on the business and much less on the community that continues to support it, despite getting nothing in return. Maybe I'm too idealistic about this business, but with absolutely no other options I am forced to settle for paying too much and getting little in return.

I think that a reduced monthly rate would entice me into becoming a member again but I don't think that will happen unless there is competition in the form of another gym. I won't return to the gym with the current rates so I suggest to either step up your game Freestone or greatly reduce the rates because it's just not worth it otherwise. A great foundation was laid over a year ago for a business to help pull the climbing community together but has failed to add anything to that foundation in that time. Most importantly, customers should feel obligated to the community and welcomed by the business to voice their opinions if unsatisfied because few things will change over this next year if we don't.

Please keep in mind that my intentions of this are not to offend or attack anyone personally but offer help in the form of constructive criticism. Really, what I want more than a cheaper membership or more equipment is a business that strives to serve the community.

Regardless of all this, I hope people in the community get the opportunity to climb outside on the nice days or be able to take off on trips this winter. Those are the times when you feel justified by spending countless hours inside climbing on plastic or money on an overpriced membership.

I'm off to Bishop for a month.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Hunt

  As the season transitions into another so does a climber's focus and with winter setting in my priorities shift to accomodate this unfavorable weather. It is hard getting used to the idea of possibly climbing outside one day a week after spending most of the summer and all of the fall being in the woods four to six times a week. Truly sad and very difficult to become used to. However, now is the time to don your day-glow orange hat and vest, shoulder a rifle or pad (both for the diehards), and get out in the woods on the hunt for animals and stone. Lolo is rich with both and, like I have said in the past, the amount of stone in Lolo is simply staggering. Stone exists nearly everywhere in the forest but finding worthy blocks is the true challenge. Walking for hours on a hunch to find shoulder high turds or completely blank walls or utter garbage is disheartening to say the least and there will be many outings that will have you bitter about your findings leaving you with nothing more then a long walk back to the car. But there also exists opportunity for amazing finds.

  A few weeks ago Levi and I got in my car early one Saturday morning on a mission to find out if this spot we had been talking about for the past year would become Montana's premier bouldering destination. Dylan initially saw a picture of the area in the book Montana Roadside Geology that was of houses being dwarfed by an endless field of boulders that sat beneath a dark cliff band. We had combed Google maps looking at these boulders for months wondering if we had stumbled upon something that would soon consume all our free time.  The time had come to find out what this place was all about. Our hopes were high and the 4+ hour drive seemed much longer than it actually was with the anticipation building coupled with the anxiety of sacrificing one of the last good weekends here. We turned off the highway on to a rutted dirt road with a wealth of rock in the distance and the sun shining.

  With eyes fixed on the distant rock we nearly drove completely off the road into the tall grass prairie on more then one 90 degree turn en route to the boulders. As we approached it was apparent that the houses in the picture we had poured over were abandoned and we quickly left the car in the middle of the road and were soon in the midst of the boulder field. The rock was really good requiring nothing more then a once over with a wire brush to take off the outer layer to clean and the features were very unique ranging from softball sized protrusions, large plates separated by deep cut seams, pockets, and pinches. Unfortunately, most of the boulders were just too small.

    There were of course some true beauties. The square boulder had an awesome leg-snapping, pinball landing that crushed any hopes of climbing it without gear.

   It was a bust. The houses must have been occupied by dwarves because they were barely over head height which threw off our entire basis for being house-sized boulders. However, the walls behind the boulders look phenomenal and for any interested party it is located just north of Square Butte and south of Geraldine on the west side of the highway.

 The weekend was salvaged by stopping in Bozeman to visit friends and climbing in Butte with Kyle and Joe giving us a tour of what they have been developing.

The hunt continues for next season's sweet spot.