Climbing Business Journal Podcasts

Be inspired and learn from insiders of the climbing industry. We interview routesetters, coaches, managers of gyms and brands, and legendary figures from our sport.

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3 days ago

Bryan Pletta founded Stone Age Climbing Gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the 1990s. On this episode of the CBJ Podcast, Pletta details what it was like to create the gym, and he expounds on the gym’s progression over the years—ultimately resulting in two current locations, Stone Age North and Stone Age Midtown. Pletta also discusses “gym culture” of the 1990s: How that culture has changed since then, and also how the culture has not actually changed that much. Pletta also talks about the logistics of hosting competitions and the benefits of competitions for any gym.
Thank you OnSite for your support!And thank you Devin Dabney for your music!

Friday May 03, 2024

On this episode of The Impact Driver Podcast, Holly Chen—routesetter, journalist, and contributing writer at CBJ—hosts Kasia Pietras, a legendary, OG routesetter. Kasia has been climbing since 1996 and setting since 2003. She has set for almost 100 competitions—91 to be exact—at the time of recording. Kasia is a USAC Level 4 routesetter, SPI and CWI certified, teaches USAC Setting Clinics on occasion, and is currently working at Kilter Grips in Frederick, Colorado. She’s also among the first cohorts of setters who saw a routesetting transition from unpaid volunteer work to a fully-fledged profession. Holly and Kasia’s conversation begins with a walk down memory lane, then covers conflicts that can arise between routesetting teams and gym management, insider knowledge, setter burnout, and more.
Thank you Trango and Rock Gym Pro for your support!And thank you Devin Dabney for your music!

Thursday Apr 18, 2024

Javier Díaz co-founded a gym, Sierra Elevation, in Mexico with business partner Adrian Hovelman in 2021. Two years later, Sierra Elevation merged with Adamanta, the leading climbing gym chain in Mexico. Packed into that multi-year period was an on-the-ground education for Díaz, as he learned what it took to operate a gym in Mexico, realized the advantages of partnering with a larger entity, and borrowed ideas and concepts from gyms that he had visited in the United States. In this episode of the CBJ podcast, Díaz discusses that backstory, while providing a brief history of Mexico’s gym scene and giving some valuable assessments of Mexico’s climbing gym culture. He also explains why he thinks Mexico’s climbing gym industry is on the cusp of a veritable boom period and about to “go big.”
Thank you OnSite for your support!And thank you Devin Dabney for your music!

Thursday Apr 04, 2024

Joining Holly Chen on the Impact Driver podcast this week is Claire Kawainui Miller, a crew leader at Touchstone Climbing, USAC Level 2 Routesetter, climbing movement enthusiast and loving mother of two cats. Claire and Holly’s simultaneously fun and serious conversation meanders from gender inequities to ladder fiascos and covers Claire’s most controversial setting opinion, the pervasiveness of imposter syndrome, offering inspiration and energy to coworkers, keeping comp climbers “sketched out,” the value of wide representation and different perspectives in all things, and at least one setting exercise you won’t forget.
Thank you Vertical Solutions and TRUBLUE for your support!And thank you Devin Dabney for your music!

Saturday Mar 16, 2024

Jen Piperno is the Executive Director at Teton Rock Gym in Driggs, Idaho. Teton Rock Gym is unique because it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and that designation frames the gym’s operation, outlook and funding. In this episode, Piperno explains more about what it means for a climbing gym to be a nonprofit business and how such designation can allow a facility to uniquely connect with the local community. Piperno also discusses how her various academic and professional pursuits—including earning a master’s degree in nonprofit management with a concentration in social business—ultimately led to her current distinctive role in the climbing gym industry.
Thank you OnSite for your support!And thank you Devin Dabney for your music!

Thursday Feb 29, 2024

Routesetting as a shorter setter doesn’t come with a shortage of challenges and frustrations. But that’s far from the full story for Abby Tran, Assistant Headsetter at The Circuit Bouldering Gyms in Portland, Oregon. On this episode of the Impact Driver podcast, unabashedly short setters Abby and Holly Chen discuss some of the benefits that shorter people bring to the setting world; the importance of empathy, trust and respect on setting teams; training for setting as a shorter setter and a setter in general; enjoying both aesthetic climbs and a “wrestle” on the wall; avoiding “featherbagging” as well as sandbagging; and at one point, Abby’s cat sneaks onto the show. Our host is Holly Yu Tung Chen with music by Devin Dabney, and sponsors Essential and Strati.

Friday Feb 16, 2024

Today I talk to Mathieu Ackermann, who is one of the shapers at Flathold, the other creative mastermind there being Manuel Hassler, whose name you will hear mentioned in this episode as well. But back to Mathieu. He is a fascinating subject because his shaping at Flathold combines a love for outdoor climbing with some formal art training and education, and all with an open embrace of what Mathieu calls the new school style of climbing and shaping. And speaking of that new school style, if you watched the Bern World Championships, you saw the unveiling of some clear, no-texture holds from Flathold. They made huge waves in the comp climbing world. So Mathieu and I talk all about the creation of those clear, no tex-holds, and we talk about how Flathold wasn't even sure if the IFSC would allow those holds to be used at the World Championships. There's a cool little story there. So let's jump into my conversation with Mathieu Ackermann at Flathold. Our host is John Burgman with music by Devin Dabney, and sponsors Approach and TRUBLUE.

Wednesday Dec 13, 2023

Today’s guest is John McGowan. I don't even know the single best way to describe John. Entrepreneur, business developer, old school climber but new school visionary, adventurer, all of the above. I will say this: If someone were putting together a list of the most important figures of the climbing gym industry of the past 35 or 40 years, basically as long as there has been some semblance of an American climbing gym industry, John McGowan would absolutely be one of the names on it. He has started businesses that have contributed immensely to key evolutions of the climbing industry, as you will hear about. In terms of his resume, he founded Boulder Rock Club in 1990. He and a business partner, Steve Holmes, then founded Eldorado Climbing Walls a few years after that. Later, he and Steve Holmes also started TRUBLUE auto belays. And more recently he was involved in founding Riversmith, which is a company that he will explain more about in the conversation. Our host is John Burgman with music by Devin Dabney, and sponsors Kilter and TRUBLUE.

Thursday Nov 16, 2023

Today's guests are Foxman McCarthy-James and Justin Wright. Foxman is the Head Setter at Alta Climbing & Fitness and Alta Boulders in Arizona, while Justin is the Director of Routesetting at Edgeworks Climbing & Fitness in Washington. Between the two, they have over 25 years of setting experience and even more climbing experience. Together, they cofounded Vortex Routesetting, a company that provides setter development and training, competition management, and consultations. In this wide-ranging conversation, Fox, Justin and I talk about the rise in demand for setting consultations, the bottlenecks of setting education, and the numbers behind the scenes of the setting trade, from pay and workload to setter professional development. Justin and Fox offer their expertise and insights, demonstrating how all of those trends are more interlinked than perhaps previously thought. Our host is Holly Yu Tung Chen with music by Devin Dabney, and sponsors Strati Climbing and Trango.

Wednesday Oct 18, 2023

We are talking industry trade shows today. Specifically, today's guest is Travis Williams, who founded sToKed Climbing with his wife, Kimberly, and more recently founded the Indoor Climbing Expo. More than a trade show, the Expo is a new industry gathering, or festival, that combines routesetting clinics, educational sessions, roundtables, competitions, local crag tours, and of course plenty of networking opportunities. The Expo will be held in Tennessee at the Chattanooga Convention Center from December 13-16, and CBJ is actually the official media partner for the event. So, we wanted to circle up with Travis on a podcast episode to talk a little more about the Expo, the idea behind the event, who will be there and who should be there—which means you! The Expo was made for all professionals and climbers in the industry. Our host is John Burgman with music by Devin Dabney, and sponsors Essential Climbing and Vertical Solutions.


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