El Paso Contractor, Air Force Medic, Brings Climbing Gym to Northwest El Paso | Local News

Climbers from all over the world come to far eastern El Paso County to climb Hueco Tanks, a world-renowned state park, historic site, and climbing paradise.

But the sport hasn’t taken off locally because it has other locations, and an El Paso rock climbing enthusiast and his business partner, an Air Force medic, hope to change that.

Albert Alvarez and Nicholas Villalobos are building an indoor climbing gym in northwest El Paso at 1775 Cimarron Rialto Place. Sessions Climbing Gym is expected to be completed in early 2022. It will include Olympic-grade climbing walls and a cafe, the owners said.

“We hope to get everyone from El Paso involved,” Villalobos said. “We think a lot of other big cities are starting to really embrace the climbing community as a sport, and we want El Paso to be at the forefront of that evolution.”

The gym is the next stop for Alvarez’s tourism business, Sessions Climbing & Guiding, which he founded in 2012 after returning to El Paso, he said. The tourist activity will be absorbed by the operations of the gymnasium and will continue to offer guided climbing tours.

For many climbers, their introduction to the sport was as a child, or a natural next step after something like hiking. For Alvarez, it was a total glitch.

When Alvarez was a freshman at the University of Texas at El Paso, he found a hat in the library and kept it. He did not recognize the Climbing Affiliate logo and wore it until he was stopped by the hat’s original owner.

“At first I said, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to steal your hat.’ He asked me if I wanted to go rock climbing and invited me over this weekend. The rest is history, and I’ve been climbing ever since,” Alvarez said.

Rock climbing is becoming increasingly popular across the country. For the first time this summer, sport climbing will be an Olympic sport at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games.

Both Villalobos and Alvarez have a military background. Alvarez retired from the United States Navy and Villalobos is an active duty Air Force medic.

Villalobos said its total investment, including land acquisition and construction, was around $6 million and funding came from private sources.

The gym will offer various membership options, including day passes.

Currently, there are limited options for indoor climbing gyms in El Paso.

Cave Climbing Gym, 113 Executive Center, is available for indoor climbing and bouldering and offers classes, events and tours for all levels. There are rock climbing walls at UTEP and Fort Bliss, but they are for students and the military only.

There is a climbing gym under construction in the California Bay Area called Session. Alvarez said the gym and sessions are completely different gyms with no affiliation.

Rock climbing is extremely popular at Hueco Tanks. The word hueco means hole, and the gaps in the rocks are the perfect size for hands and feet.

But like any other sport, it’s not always wise to go to the rock climbing mecca on your first time. This is where guidance and indoor training come into play.

“Our vision is to have a hub in El Paso that will get people from the city to the gym, and hopefully prepare people where they can experience the outdoors,” said Alvarez.

Virginia F. Goins