NMU alumnus opens climbing gym in Marquette

NMU+alumnus+opens+climbing+gym+in+Marquette

Isabelle Tavares

Marquette has exquisite hiking, miles upon miles of trodden trail and a darn good pasty. The summer months bring a plethora of outdoor climbing and come winter, adventurous climbers stick their picks into frozen waterfalls for an icy thrill. Apart from a few indoor climbing facilities, the woodsy trek is all that remains except for one. The new gym called Hangdog Climbing, located at 1206 S Front St, exists in a squat, nondescript blue building. There are many forms of climbing, but the new gym specializes in bouldering, which is climbing without a rope or harness.

A glimpse at the weather forecast during a U.P. winter will most likely bring cloudy days, nine hours of limited sunlight and a permanent grey haze in the air. Walk through the door, though, and you’ll see 16-foot-tall walls painted sky blue and shades of sunset orange to contrast the gloom outside. This vision was in the mind of Devin Greer, Hangdog Climbing owner and 2012 NMU Biology graduate. Greer, age 29, was born and raised in Marquette and has dreamed about a gym dedicated solely to climbing since he started the adventurous sport while at NMU.

“When I was climbing in college it was always on my mind,” Greer said. “I wish I could do this and thought ‘when is someone gonna open a sweet gym.’”

Greer moved to Milwaukee after graduating from NMU four years ago and had plans for when he would return to Marquette to open a gym. He thought by then there would be multiple climbing gyms in Marquette, and now he is the owner of the first bouldering gym in the U.P.

Though Marquette is home to over five different outdoor climbing sites, Greer wanted to know if building a bouldering gym would be worthwhile. He gauged interest in the community by word of mouth and talking to the small community of climbers.

“Wherever you’ve got rock like that there’s a community,” Greer said. “Once I confirmed what I thought was true, that the community is growing, construction began in September.”

Greer’s construction knowledge is mostly self taught, he learned from helping his parent’s build their house. This isn’t Greer’s first whack at opening and building a bouldering gym, though. He remade an old Milwaukee bakery into a small bouldering gym in a cave-like style with low, sloping walls. He said that opening Hangdog Climbing went much smoother.

Most climbers begin learning on top-rope, a form of climbing when one wears a harness connected to a rope, he said. Greer, like most people, started with top-rope then found he had the most fun bouldering.

“I felt the best, physically, mentally and spiritually while bouldering. Being able to hike out with a pad and shoes is very freeing,” Greer said. “You rely more heavily on your legs, your arms are just for balance. It’s a style that suited me best and I kept with it.”

Routes are specific to the level and style of climbing and are color coded by either tape or a cohesive color. Setting routes, a term for mapping out the foot and hand holds for a specific climb, is a large part of what Greer does. He spreads about 10 multi-shaped foot and hand holds on the gym floor and climbs the sequence in his mind.

“It’s easy for me to set for myself, but I think ‘ok this one’s going to be a low grade for shorter people or a tall guy,’” Greer said. “I climb it in my head before it’s even on the wall.”

“The best part is seeing people come to the gym, pick out a problem and work on a route,” Greer said. “Whether they finish it or not, you can tell what they’re getting out of it when you stand back and watch, you can just tell.”

Starting a small business requires a lot of work, but Greer said his passion for climbing keeps him motivated.

“It’s easy because I like to think that something you love you have passion for. I know it’s cliche, but climbing is something I love and being at the gym is what motivates me,” he said. “I love being a part of the climbing community and helping people out. If I don’t do the little things that are required for running a business, I won’t have this.”

To Greer and his climbing friends, a hangdog climber is used to describe someone who “hangs on the rope a lot, is real carefree and not super intense.” Greer wanted this style of climbing to loosely fit the gym atmosphere, but still wants it to be a place for climbers to have goals. The gym is developing their fit area which will be equipped with TRX bands, weights, bicycles and a large campus board to exercise finger strength.

Come summertime, Greer said he plans on holding classes and youth camps as a way to get people into the sport.

Including the soft opening, Hangdog Climbing has been open for two weeks and has over 10 members, including NMU students and community members. Membership rates are $40 monthly, $420 annual, $10 drop in. From Tuesday through Friday, the gym is open from noon to 10 p.m. and noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. College night will be every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. with discounted drop-ins to $5. Tonight only though, Hangdog Climbing will offer $100 semester passes ending
on May 5.