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.


  1. If you have an opinion, positive or negative, you should post it because this is something worth talking about.

  2. Justin- I'll take the bait. Hook. Line. And sinker (though I am sure they will fall on deaf ears, as you, dylan, and levi all apparently have the same views on Freestone).

    1) Cost. As this is essentially WALT'S baby (WALT bought and built this rig, not the missoula climbing community), he's still paying it back. How do you pay back a $250,000-$500,000 investment? Monthly rates and a kids' team. Yes, I agree, $50 a month is alot. An automatic withdraw contract is $43 from freestone, $49 from The Circuit and $50 from Spire. A day pass at Freestone is $1 more than the Circuit, and $2 LESS than Spire. Though entirely different animals, the cost is consistent with the market. Yes, the Spire and Circuit have ABS comps, established youth teams, events, etc etc, but Freestone has been around like 15 months! Maybe a more viable option rate would be $50 for first month, then $40 a month automatic withdraw for remainder of 11 months? Offers $110 savings for dedicated annual members. Just a thought.

    2) Setting. Though I've only climbed at Freestone once, I thought it was fairly consistent with setting everywhere else I've climbed indoor (Boulder, Salt Lake, Chattanooga, Paris, Bozeman, Grand Junction, Portland, Vancouver), some routes are awesome, and some blow. this is common wherever you go ....setters strong suits+ your strong suits - your weak suits + freshness of holds - how hungover you are + this and + that. I agree, some of the problems I got on at Freestone were less than awesome. But some of them would've held their own at the most recent Circuit Comp that Steven Jeffery and another World Cup routesetter threw together. Win some/lose some. Can't win'em all. I don't know if you ever bouldered at the old University Gym, but the setting there (minus the stuff ian and goody put up) was atrocious! Absolute improvement from the status quo.

    3) Giving back to the community. What the fuck actually is the Missoula climbing community? For a while we were convinced it was the UM GYM scene. Obviously it wasn't all inclusive, but there were a ton of dedicated climbers who actually were a community then. Before that, I'm pretty sure it was Rock Garden scene. As for nowadays, I guess I'm outta the loop, but from an outsiders point of view, I'd say Freestone IS the climbing community. For the two years the Portland Boulder Rally has been running I've seen GNAR Pirates at the Circuit Comp. Molly crushed it (2 years ago), representing the shit outta Freestone and Missoula! Isn't she a climbing coach there? Dunno about other event-stuff, but having a climbing team is directly related to giving back to the community.

    I would be cautious about what lolobouldering.blogspot does for the missoula climbing community, besides writing overly honest reviews on the town's only private gym. Ask dylan how his "ethics" blog post went over with the bozeman crew. Or ask Levi how throwing pictures of lolo up all over facebook and then saying it was a "secret area" went over a couple of years ago.

    I dunno, just my 2 cents.

  3. Samfish:

    While blunt and maybe a bit overzealous, I think Justin's post brings up a good point. Ultimately we want discussion and he certainly ask for it in his post and I'm glad you responded as you have provided many good insights from the wilderness of Portlandia.

    I like the idea of lowering rates as your membership progresses, offers a reason to stay on for longer. I wonder though what would happen to Freestone if an all out climbing facility started, mainly offering ropes. I think more climbers would be into a ropes and bouldering facility than just a bouldering gym. I would prefer the later, however. I feel as though there are way more rope climbers than boulder freaks in Missoula, just a thought.

    I'll agree with you on the setting to some degree, but you have only bouldered there once so that doesn't give your argument much validity. I haven't climbed there since February and maybe the setting has improved, maybe it hasn't, but I hear mixed feelings among the people i talk to. Setting is bound to be good and bad, always a mixed bag. This isn't a world class facility, nor will it ever be. But they aren't aiming to be so you can't fault them on that. I wish they were more open to suggestions and letting people set different style problems but they were nothing short of dismissive when I tried to put in my 2 cents when I was a member.

    As for the community thing, I can't speak for Justin or for the community. I don't really give two fucks on the community because I just want to boulder outside with a few friends. The community that is there is a good one however, like the Gnar Pirates. Molly is the perfect matron to take that one on and I think the team fosters a sense of community. People need there community and I'm glad its there for them. I just don't need or want to be apart of it, but that's in my personality.

    As for my ancient and excellently cynical ethics post, I have no regrets. It brought out dialogue, no matter how lowbrow it was. Gluing is shitty and for cowards but its ultimately fucking climbing on rocks so who gives a fuck. And yes, its true Lolo is no secret. But we will always have our secret stashes.