In the world of climbing, the news of the opening of the largest climbing gym in the world spread quickly. On the novice side, one wonders “why” such grandiose fantasies. We went to see at once, in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, to understand what attracts more and more city-dwellers to spend whole days or evenings in the void of these climbing galleries.
Far from the busy Parisian center, the 7,000 square meter giant has been installed across from the ring road. After several years of work turning old tennis courts into a climbing hotspot, the climbing room at the Aubervilliers opened a month earlier, on April 21, to accommodate a mix of roads and rocks where there is nowhere to climb. The French leader in indoor climbing, which now has about thirty rooms in France, does not stop opening up new spaces.
The first private halls opened in France in the early 1990s, and today there are more than 160 rooms, reinforced by school practice and the entry of the system into the Olympic stadium since 2021.
joint action – climb
The Aubervilliers room is particularly unique for its size. At the entrance, this Wednesday, the huge bar welcomes practitioners, either to take appetizers or to sit on the benches and sip a beer. By the end of May, a restaurant with a chef in the kitchen will open offering a truly global experience. Because with these additions, modern climbing gyms are attracting a new audience. “We have a lot of people accompanying a climber and staying in the relaxation area,” confirms Mehdi Wanda, director of the new room and himself a novice in training.
In this vast space, it is also possible to work remotely. Plugs, Wi-Fi and a meeting room on request, everything is done to attract climbers at any time of the day. The meeting room allows the room to host seminars. Extendable day since the room, like most of its competitors, is open from 8am to midnight 7 days a week. Quiet looking, a bunch of remote workers frantically typing on their computers.
Nearly 200 different routes
During this time, before the eyes of the most diligent climbers, few climbers warm up on easy routes. It’s still early afternoon. Take turns decreasing. And they have a choice: the room offers no less than 200 different routes at heights of about 10 meters. On the side, a section of the huge room is devoted to rock practice, which does not require belts or specific depictions. A particularly common practice with solo climbers, who do not need a partner to satisfy their desire to climb. Several courses for beginners are also offered.
“It’s great here, we know we won’t have to wait when we come to climb,” Nathan, 23, slips between two climbs. A reference to the often crowded halls of Paris. It must be said that the hall, in addition to being huge, has not yet met all its audience. Between 300 and 400 people enter it every day, while the business model has set a thousand people. There is no doubt that the upcoming metro arrival and word of mouth will do their job.
19-year-old Anna, a student in Lyon as she passes through Paris, was won anyway: “It really made me want to continue climbing. It was a great precedent for me, the atmosphere and the quality of the equipment immediately gave me confidence.” His father, Boris, who accompanied him added: “The great variety of walls makes it easy to alternate between climbing and rocking. The space of the place helps to easily overcome the first fears.
“Climbing has great development potential”
For Francois Petit, former world climbing champion and founder of Climb up, founder of this extensive indoor project, climbing is actually more than just a sport: “My goal is to convey my passion for climbing to all audiences for my body, mind and social well-being. It is a balanced sport for the upper part. And the lower body, when we climb, we really focus on our four points of support, and it’s a sport where you have a portion of the time where you’re going to exchange and reshape the world. It’s not like fitness where you work out, then you shower and you go home. We are the place of life and encounters.”
And he wouldn’t say the opposite, the former champion believes in developing his sport: “We have a penetration rate of 1 to 2%. Fitness 10-12%. In climbing, there are more values. Previously, people wanted more care of their bodies and physical safety; now They are concerned about their health and I believe that rock climbing will take a large market share. We have great development potential. It is not well known yet. In the meantime, the franchise, whose presence is increasing by 17% annually, continues its momentum with the opening of a room in Cergy Pontoise at the end of June, Then in Saint-Etienne in August.
This is not to say that climbing in and of itself is not fun, but that it may seem difficult for a beginner. Faced with this observation, Climb up envisioned an entire “fun climb” space, aimed specifically at groups of kids or companies, to measure themselves against each other as in “Ninja warrior”. On Wednesday, a group of kids are having a great time on the different roads. On the upper floor, age group buildings can also accommodate children from 3 years old. It’s never too early to hold your audience. And that’s up to the age of 97. Even people with reduced mobility are welcome with trained coaches.
The gym’s director, Medhi Ouanda, insists that “our credo really climbs for everyone”. “We have four-year-olds who come to climb with their grandfather. We also respect parity since we have about 50% women. And then, we want it to be a meeting place. To do that, the manager has already set up a QR code system at the entrance to find a climbing partner. his own, and imagine a device of colored bracelets to wear in the room to signal to others.
For relaxation, the room also has a sauna, like some of its competitors. So climbing makes you want to, right?