Climbing Devils Tower. Scaling the cliffs of Spearfish Canyon. Bouldering in the Black Hills. Each adventurous pursuits in their own right, but what if all three could be enjoyed together? In a single location? Without having to deal with the elements?

At the High Mountain Climbing Gym in Spearfish they can be.

Owner Justin Stephens opened the state-of-the art indoor rock climbing gym this past May after hearing customers at High Mountain’s three outdoors stores asking about the addition of an indoor climbing gym.

Stephens set out to fill that need.

“Our design is welcoming and interesting to climbers of all ages,” said Stephens. “We have lots of young kids climbing every day, along with expert climbers who come and climb when they pass through town. A lot of our customers are people who ‘have always wanted to try that.’”

“The climbing community is quickly growing. But as we all know, winters are long, and summer weather can be unpredictable. Our facility allows for people to climb year-round.”

Working with a former climbing gym manager and expert climbing gym route setters in Spearfish, Stephens was able to design a gym that brought the best of the Black Hills indoors, while staying true to the natural rock features found in his own backyard.

“We were very intentional on creating climbing walls and features in our gym that replicate actual areas of the Black Hills,” said Stephens.

And when climbers set foot in the gym, they’ll take notice.

“One wall has something called ‘crack volumes’ which replicate the style of climbing in cracks found on Devils Tower,” said Stephens. “On another wall we have overhangs and features that enable people to train for climbing the limestone cliffs of Spearfish Canyon.”

Bouldering, or rock climbing on boulders without ropes or a harness, is also a major sport in the area, Stephens says. So naturally, he made sure High Mountain had a bouldering section.

The gym is open seven days a week, and anyone from seasoned climbers to novices can enjoy High Mountain’s variety of climbing features designed for any skill level. The only thing each area of the gym has in common? Stephens’ commitment to taking the outdoors inside in a way that pays tribute to the natural beauty of the area, not simplifies it.

“A good portion of our guests are BHSU students, many of whom moved to Spearfish from other places and are brand new to the kind of outdoor experiences Spearfish offers. Our gym is one way to introduce them to climbing.”

That same commitment to design and passion for making rock climbing accessible to everyone will translate into their second indoor climbing gym opening this winter in Rapid City.

“Since the first day our Spearfish gym opened, the number one question we’ve been asked is, ‘When are you going to open a gym in Rapid City?’” said Stephens. “Both cities have large climbing communities, and we are very happy to provide them with indoor climbing facilities.”

Stephens says the Rapid City gym will feature its own kid-specific climbing area, along with an events space for things like birthday parties and team-building activities.

Though he came from a retail family, Stephens says his love of the outdoors was what inspired him to open High Mountain’s gear stores, and the subsequent customer feedback in the stores spurred on his venture into the gyms.

“I absolutely love helping people find and grow in their outdoor passions,” said Stephens. “Yes, there is the health and athletic aspect of it, but I think that the more important piece is what being outdoors and hiking or climbing a mountain can do for one’s mind and spirit.”

Recently Stephens says a customer stopped by the retail store in Custer to ask for a hiking recommendation. The next day he came back, just to tell Stephens how proud and accomplished he felt after that hike.

“I love helping people reach those summits,” said Stephens, “both literally and figuratively.”

For more information, visit High Mountain Climbing Gym’s Facebook page.

More Details High Mountain Climbing Gym

  • Rent ropes and a helmet
  • Peruse climbing guidebooks
  • Take group climbing classes
  • Host a community-building event
  • Throw a birthday party
  • Meet other climbers
  • Purchase climbing shoes or harnesses
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