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Every modern climbing gym should have these 5 features

This facility is located fifteen minutes outside of Barcelona and is dedicated to all things climbing. A massive lead wall, two competition-ready speed walls, a one-of-a-kind bottomless bouldering area, and a 50-foot auto belay mezzanine with 20 TRUBLUE Auto Belays are all part of the 50,000-square-foot facility. After the workout, there’s even a lounge where fatigued climbers may unwind, relax, and provide encouragement (or whatever) to their more intrepid companions while chugging beer and pizza.

We recently spoke with Chris about what went into the establishment of BCN-Gavà, as well as some of the modern amenities and design considerations that have contributed to the gym’s success.

We’ve divided his responses into five groups. These are the five modern characteristics that any climbing gym should have if you’re currently creating your own climbing gym or even simply thinking about mixing things up a bit.

Social areas

Given the natural desire to cram your gym with as many walls, boards, and challenges as physically possible, it’s easy to overlook one critical factor: people. Climbers require social places set aside for relaxing, comparing beta, or simply strolling from one route to the next, whether your gym was meant to handle 500 people or 50.

Ask yourself the following questions to avoid falling into the trap of overpacking: What will this place look like when it’s fully occupied? Between climbs, where will climbers congregate? Is there enough space for people to move from one side of the gym to the other comfortably?

Elements of competition

If you plan on organizing competitions in the future, as many gyms do, it’s a good idea to think about the angles of your area before you start filling it. Make sure there are adequate direct lines of sight from your viewing area to your primary competition aspects, in particular.

The lead climbing wall, for example, is a prominent competition element at Sharma Climbing BCN-Gavà. Knowing this, they went to great lengths to leave the area around the wall free, allowing spectators to congregate at and around the base. They also erected a viewing space right across from the lead wall where a second group of fans may have an unimpeded view of the action as an added bonus.

Different disciplines have their own areas

One of Sharma Climbing BCN-more Gavà’s unusual – but easily replicable – choices in the gym’s layout was to keep each climbing discipline separate. Sure, many gyms have bouldering areas separated from roped areas, but Sharma Climbing took it a step further by separating the lead climbing area from the top rope area and, more importantly, dedicating a completely separate space to auto belays.

Having a designated space for auto belays has a number of significant advantages. For one thing, a large number of climbers can be accommodated in a relatively small space, allowing for high throughput with minimum staffing. Additionally, auto belay zones minimize the need to mount additional climbing equipment such as anchors or quickdraws, lowering the risk of nylon becoming hooked or trapped while also boosting overall safety.

There’s another purpose for having an auto belay area, though you’ll have to look closely to see it. Auto belays are beneficial in developing a unique community of otherwise independent climbers. While the communal aspect of auto belays is often trivialized – or outright ignored – in the larger scheme of “climbing culture,” auto belays are beneficial in developing a unique community of otherwise independent climbers. Some climbers may just be missing their partner for the day, while many others are introverted or socially apprehensive and prefer the auto belay area because it is where they feel most at ease. In either case, having an auto belay area makes it easier to meet other climbers who share your interests and, in some situations, can help you form new climbing relationships.

Amenities that are state-of-the-art

Even the slightest things can have a major impact on your overall perception when you spend a lot of time in a location. Every feature, from the lighting to the climatization, was carefully considered at Sharma Climbing BCN-Gavà.

Unique climbing features were also designed with extra care and attention. The first thing that comes to mind is their bottomless bouldering wall, which hangs from the ceiling and leaves a few feet between the floor and the boulder. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful, but the boulder’s odd shape and placement allows for the creation of new and interesting routes that would be impossible to put up in other gyms.

Terrain for persons of all ability levels

One of the most difficult tasks facing any climbing gym is ensuring that climbers of all abilities have access to high-quality terrain and inspirational routes. Finding the appropriate balance between introductory and expert – while keeping things entertaining for the rest of us in between – can be a difficult line to walk, but it’s one that’s worth the effort for everyone from first-timers to Chris Sharma himself.


While Sharma Climbing BCN-Gavà is an excellent example of what a modern climbing gym can be, we don’t believe that every gym should (or should try to) emulate their approach. Every climbing gym is distinct, with its own distinct charm and personality. It’s all part of the indoor climbing experience. Instead, we hope you’ll take the five modern elements listed above, be creative, and personalize them.

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