Indoor climbing returns to Le Marin for the first time since 2008

  • A climber tackles one of the boulder problems at Gravity Vault Marin in San Rafael. (Courtesy of Gravity Vault Marin)

  • A young climber climbs the wall of the Gravity Vault Marin in San Rafael. (Courtesy of Gravity Vault Marin)

Scott Sklar was a regular at the Class 5 climbing gym in San Rafael, taking his daughter with him until it closed in 2008.

“His interest in the sport kind of rekindled my passion,” said Sklar, who fell in love with rock climbing as a student in the late 1970s. week and outside when I can for 10-15 years.”

Sklar and other Marin climbing enthusiasts have had to travel to San Francisco or Santa Rosa since Class 5 closed. Sklar and his business partner, Brian Platter, are set to bring climbing back to Marin with the Saturday grand opening of Gravity Vault Marin, part of the new San Rafael Sports Center located at the city’s airport.

“Marin was the only county in the Bay Area that didn’t have a climbing gym at all,” Sklar said. “We searched for five years to find this place – something with enough parking and high enough ceilings. When we found the sports facility it was a eureka moment.

“It seemed like a great thing to do. Climbing gyms create communities. It’s a social sport and that’s one of its particularities.

Gravity Vault Marin is the first company to launch inside the San Rafael Sports Center. The gymnasium features 18,000 square feet of rock climbing, 4,000 square feet of bouldering on two levels, over 150 bouldering problems, and over 200 rope and lead routes.

“There are three types of rock climbing you can do in our gym,” Sklar said. “Top rope climbing – you attach them to a rope and while you climb the wall. There’s someone controlling the rope, so if you slip and fall, you’ll only fall a few inches.

“Lead climbing – the rope and the two climbers are at the bottom. As the first climber goes up, he attaches the rope through a series of anchor points. … It’s a bit more exciting and it need more skills.

“The simplest type is the block. You don’t need a rope. The climbing walls peak at 14 feet and there are very thick pads at the bottom. You climb without a rope and if you fall, you fall on the skates.

The grand opening celebration of the gymnasium will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday and continue throughout the weekend. Opening weekend perks include $5 day passes, membership discounts, speed climbing competitions and free Try-A-Climbs for new climbers.

“(Climbing) is a great indoor or outdoor sport to stay in shape,” Sklar said. “It’s also a mental challenge — lots of puzzles to solve. It’s a great sport for getting old. …I’m in my early 60s and still climbing. I haven’t slowed down much at all.

COVID protocols will be in place, in accordance with county guidelines.

“Masks are mandatory,” Sklar said. “It’s a large, open, well-ventilated space. … We ask if you are 12 and older that you will have been vaccinated.

Virginia F. Goins