LEARN to crawl on all fours again at Boulderoom - where there's 300 square metres of fun.
photo: Courtesy of Bolderoom
At Boulderoom, Bratislava's new venue for climbing, Zdenka Bírová looks down at the fallen worker and grins. He is not here to work but to try the sport known as "bouldering". She offers him words of encouragement but they are not needed: he has already leapt off the deeply padded floor and reached the top of the wall. His companions cheer.
Bouldering - a subset of rock climbing, on short walls less than five metres high - started as a way for climbers to train for long, demanding outdoor routes. Now recognized as a sport on its own, bouldering is cropping up in cities and towns all over the world in the form of bouldering gyms.
Two young Slovak entrepreneurs are determined to bring a new vision of bouldering gym to the country's capital - one that offers serious climbers a place to train and aspiring ones a comfortable place to learn. In addition to the outdoor climbing wall at Aupark Shopping Center and the small, elite bouldering "cave" in the rear of the popular Café Stena, Bratislava comes of age with Boulderoom, a large and airy facility in Petržalka, at the foot of Starý Most (Old Bridge).
Boulderoom is unique to Bratislava for several reasons. First, it is dedicated to climbing. Owners Jaroslav Alexa, 25, and Zdenka, 23, make their business decisions based on what is good for the gym. For example, Boulderoom's location was not chosen for its potential as an attractive restaurant storefront. Rather, the expansive warehouse site on the back side of the TPD building was singled out for the 300-square-metres of climbing it offers. The dressing rooms are not afterthoughts, either. They are clean and spacious with modern shower facilities that Western consumers have come to expect from fitness centres.
Open since April, Boulderoom offers hundreds of moulded climbing holds bolted onto more than a dozen large surfaces at varying angles, from severely overhanging to less-than-vertical. The gym's design, based on the Bouldering Center Edelweiss in Vienna, appeals to seasoned climbers as well as beginners.
Those with experience can train for power and endurance on all the surfaces using both big and small holds, while beginners can gain confidence on vertical or less-than-vertical panels using big holds before increasing the challenge. As experienced climbers will tell you, strength is not a prerequisite for climbing, either. It is not unusual to see women with arms like matchsticks climbing better than their burly male friends. Flexibility and technique count for a lot. With so much space, Boulderoom easily accommodates everyone.
Jaro and Zdenka's bouldering gym venture is different than its predecessors for another important reason: customer service. Since their livelihood depends on the success of the gym, Jaro and Zdenka focus their efforts on making Boulderoom as responsive to their clients needs as possible - and it shows.
Zdenka is friendly, outgoing and full of ideas. Currently studying marketing and communications at university, she nevertheless puts in 10- to 12-hour days at Boulderoom. A few hours a week, her sister or mother watch the gym while she attends classes, otherwise Zdenka is at Boulderoom planning gym events, improving the website, giving new climbers orientations or making routine customers feel welcome.
"I wear many hats: cleaning lady, secretary, cashier, programme coordinator, marketing and promotions director - everything," Zdenka says, laughing. A natural entrepreneur, she possesses strong beliefs about the market opportunities in Slovakia and has proven she is willing to accept a high level of personal, professional and financial risk to pursue them.
Jaro, a light technician at Volkswagen during the day, relieves Zdenka on weeknights and weekends. Together the two make a good team. A talented climber with experience building climbing walls, Jaro attends to the physical side of the job. When he is not busy sharing ownership responsibilities with Zdenka, he is ensuring that hand- and footholds are secure and evenly - and interestingly - distributed. More shy but every bit as kind as Zdenka, he often shows clients a new combination of moves that will challenge them within their ability level.
Boulderoom's latest offerings include Boulderoom Team, a children's programme supervised by an enthusiastic, certified trainer, as well as private lessons and personal training. But you do not have to sign up for a programme to drop by and give climbing a whirl, as the four construction workers would tell you.
Climbing is a natural human activity. Before we learned to teeter on our two legs, we all propelled ourselves around using all fours. A trip to Boulderoom is like being a kid again: you will have to use all fours, but instead of moving over the ground, you rise above it.
Boulderoom, located at Farského ulica 24 in Petržalka, is open from 10:00 to 22:00 daily. The website (www.boulderoom.sk) provides detailed directions on how to get there, including maps. Sk80 gives adults two hours to play on the wall; Sk70 for students and Sk40 for children under 12. Climbing shoes are available for rent. Contact 0905/787-193 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WATCH the fun or join in. Boulderoom is hosting a Slovak cup bouldering competition. Anyone can compete; winners take home prizes, including climbing equipment and gift certificates.
What:Boulderoom Contest_FM: A Slovak cup competition, open to all.
When:June 4 (Saturday); registration at 8:30, with climbing during the day; results announced at 18:30.
Where:Boulderoom, Farského 24 in Bratislava (Petržalka).
Admission:participants: Sk100 (children Sk50); spectators: free.
30. May 2005 at 0:00 | Julie Garrison