Visiting climbing gyms that are just getting their legs under them—usually in smaller cities—is bittersweet.
It’s lovely because it’s a prime example of a small community. The gym is the community. Everyone sort of knows everyone. You go to the climbing gym to climb, but also to hang out. Everyone there is your crew.
It’s a bit sad for me to visit, though, because I’m jealous. (a) I’m always an outsider at those gyms, and (b) I’ll probably never be a part of one. Seattle, for example, has such a hunger for climbing gyms that any new one becomes swamped, both with established climbers and newcomers.
A larger friend group is a community, and I think has many of the same benefits. But I think a semi-public community, like a climbing gym, is in a different category. Since it’s technically public, it’s lower friction to have new people come. And engagement is high, because if people aren’t interested, they won’t come. Plus, there’s a shared purpose.
I think these ingredients lead to fun and creativity in the space because people are more involved. The mechanics naturally discourage spectators.