Rise Up Climbing soars into its second decade of bringing sky-high adventures to Lynchburg

A normal bystander might have found it peculiar, but it wasn’t uncommon at Rise Up Climbing, the premier indoor rock climbing facility in Downtown Lynchburg.

And General Manager Stephen Baker never grew tired of it.

Several young children watched with anticipation as their grandmother slowly elevated the tall climbing wall. The kids cheered as she crept closer to its peak. Her legs staggered a bit, but her determination to impress her audience pushed her upward.

After successfully conquering the climb, the woman—possibly in her 60s or 70s—waved to her grandchildren from 40 feet above.

A young chorus of electrifying cheers applauded in return.

“Watching someone like that climb the wall only encouraged what I already believed about climbing: this is a lifelong sport that anyone can participate in—should they want it enough,” Baker said. “The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing people do what they didn’t think they could do. It’s cool to see people set goals, and not only reach them, but push beyond them.”

People climb for different reasons. Some climb for the social aspect, others climb to stay in shape, and many don harnesses just to experience something new. Since Rise Up Climbing’s founding in 2008 on Church Street, the gym has sought to please all respective parties with a wide variety of climbing options and difficulties.

Rise Up offers climbing walls for every demographic, catering to all ages regardless of experience. The gym provides 60 different 40-foot rope climbs and up to 100 different boulder problems. Each obstacle varies in difficulty to meet the climbing level of its respective user.

“The nature of the climbing gym is that it can be whatever you want it to be in terms of climbing,” Baker said. “However deep into the climbing world you want to go, we are here to facilitate that.”

The indoor climbing facility provides roughly 6,000 square feet of climbing space, which includes overhanging, vertical walls, and slab walls.

Rise Up provides day passes for first-timers, but monthly and annual memberships deliver the best value. (Memberships vary in price depending on number of participants.)

Memberships, according to Baker, are an essential component to Rise Up’s business model. Membership packages—offered to single adults, students and families—account for roughly 60 percent of Rise Up’s revenue.

“We certainly cater to new clients, but our hope and goal is to turn people from casual fun–seekers into life-long climbers,” Baker said. “I don’t want to downplay the positive impact of a stand-alone visit to the gym, but I personally feel that the life and vibrancy of Rise Up is apparent when you are a member and get to be a part of the whole ecosystem.”

Dedicated Rise Up member and Madison Heights resident Chris Kobiela climbs at least three times per week for both casual and workout purposes.

“Living in Madison Heights, [Rise Up] is the closest solid rock climbing available for less than a half hour drive,” Kobiela said. “When I joined, I came in with previous experience in climbing, but no partners to climb with.”

For Kobiela, no other place in Lynchburg offered high quality rock climbing aside from the LaHaye Student Union at Liberty University, which is limited to students and faculty. The closest climbing facilities outside Lynchburg are in Roanoke, Richmond and Charlottesville, distances that all exceed one-hour road trips.

For Kobiela, Rise Up quickly became a resource for social activity and personal exercise: the best of both worlds. Since gaining membership almost two years ago, he has not looked back. The vibrant atmosphere, along with Rise Up’s state-of-the-art equipment and resources, maintains his interest.

“The staff is pretty knowledgeable about climbing and very friendly,” Kobiela said. “There’s been plenty of times when staff has clocked out and decided to stick around to climb with the customers because they love it as much as we do.”

Although climbing gyms differ from traditional gyms such as Planet Fitness and The Y, climbing gyms still battle these facilities for customers. But according to employee and first ever Rise Up Climbing member Aubrey Mulberry, the Rise Up community stands out.

“If you go to an actual gym, everyone has their headphones in,” Mulberry said. “But in here, you’ll run into all walks of life. [Rise Up] is honestly one of the most accepting environments. [Climbing] is a very social sport.”

Mulberry also added that working out is boring, referring to the repetitive nature of lifting weights. “How many times can you count to ten before you get bored?” Mulberry said. “Climbing is very engaging… It’s not the same thing over and over. Every week there’s new stuff to do.”

Rise Up alters its climbing walls each week to provide fresh alternatives for constant members; although the patterns change, they all preserve their respective difficulties.

The facility reserves birthday slots every Friday and Saturday. It also offers summer camps for kids, youth leagues for teenagers who want to improve, and special instruction courses for youth and adults. These instructions range anywhere from basic climbing to advanced climbing movements.

“You don’t have to have any experience to come in,” Baker said. “If you don’t know much about the sport, it can seem like a lot, but we see people like that every single day. We can walk you through it, explain how it all works… and then help you progress.”

Rise Up’s youth programs have dramatically increased over the years, expanding to younger climbers in pre-school and elementary school. It is now an integral part of their business.

Rise Up juggles four different youth teams, and it even provides casual lessons to kids as young as 3 years old. “Climbing should ultimately be enjoyable, first,” Baker said. “Everything that follows is secondary.”

Rise Up’s most impactful accomplishment has been providing high-quality rock climbing for Lynchburg residents; in 11 strong years, that vision has never wavered.

“If [potential customers] are first timers or even afraid of heights, there’s no better place in the area to come try things out,” Kobiela said. “Climbing is very therapeutic, the hours of the gym work for almost everyone, and the sport itself is a very tight knit community that’s incredibly welcoming.”

For more information, visit riseupclimbing.com.

1225 Church Street, Lynchburg
Founded: 2008
Employees: 9