Hold on climbers: New climbing gym coming to Bellingham

By Ryan Wynne

For a town crawling with climbing enthusiasts, Bellingham has relatively few places for them to play during the long rainy season. Sure, there are three climbing walls here, but access to them is limited and none of the facilities is dedicated solely to climbing.

That is about to change. Greg Dotson plans to open a climbing gym in a 5,000-square-foot space across from Bellingham High School. He said the gym will definitely be constructed ― that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Climbers will have to hang tight, though, Dotson said he probably won’t open until spring 2011.

The climbing gym will be located at 1807 Dean Ave., which was formerly 122 Ohio St., next to the Ohio Street Workstudios building.

The address for the space may be a little unclear, but Dotson’s plans for it are not. He knows exactly what his wall should be because he is an avid climber.

“I’ve been a climbing enthusiast for a long time,” Dotson said.

He started climbing in the military, and while Dotson said he “was never into the whole war thing,” the military gave him an appreciation for rocks.

“I’ve travelled across the world climbing,” he said.

Dotson is putting his rock climbing experience to work. He did his own general sketch of the facility using Google SketchUp, a free 3D modeling system. He carefully selected a contractor and a designer. The design company is Rockworks Climbing Walls, which has designed walls worldwide — the specific designer working on Dotson’s project has helped create more than 65 walls, Dotson said.

Dotson is using the same manufacture Western Washington University used for its climbing wall. His wall will be different, though; it will be smoother to allow for a higher density of hand holds, he said, and that means more route diversity.

The rest of his plans may change a bit as construction moves forward. The climbing wall will probably run 4,100 square feet with the highest wall reaching 34 feet. He wants to dedicate half the climbing space to bouldering and the other half to roped climbing routes. There will be 14 to 18 belay stations and enough space to operate them all simultaneously, he said.

Dotson is in the permitting stage of construction, and can’t be sure how long that will take. He expects to start construction in February.

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