A few nights ago as I was just two moves away from completing a climbing project that had been stumping me for months, I couldn’t help but to think of how far I’d come. I mean there was the obvious “Hmm, I’m about to touch the ceiling 40+ feet up”, but it was way deeper than that. Rock climbing is so different than any other sport or activity out there I’ve ever tried (and become deeply addicted to). I made the final two moves and that was it. No roaring fans, goal buzzers, or teammates to celebrate with. It was just me… and the ceiling.
As Rob lowered me back down with a quiet “Nice job”, I couldn’t help but to smile like a little kid on Christmas. Rock climbing is addictive. It’s rewarding. It’s amazing. I wish I could adequately explain the feeling of sending (completing) a route whether it’s your first ever or a crazy climb somewhere up at Rumney, but I just can’t. If you aren’t a climber, you need to try it just once and let it all soak in. You are the one getting yourself up this wall, and that’s incredible.
I got to admit; this review is a seriously special one for me. See, way back in my awkward teenage years, my parents quite randomly decided to take my brother and I indoor rock climbing one day. We were accustomed to spur of the moment trips to various state parks, the joys and perils of dozens of campgrounds, and I think by that point I had even had a run in with a fast moving river. But rock climbing? That was a new one for all of us.
Fast forward more than ten years later, Vertical Dreams is now my home away from home. Something about the tall walls, chalked up holds, the worn leather couches, and often off the wall music playing in the background kept dragging me back every so often for years. Finally this past year, I gave in. I’m an addict. I’m a Vertical Dreams regular.
So what should you know about this place?
Location & Facilities: I’ve been to a few rock climbing gyms now around the country and I haven’t found one quite like Vertical Dreams. Most climbing gyms tend to also double as a workout place with a whole lot of weightlifting gear so you end up with the real serious anti-social bunch (the “I lift things up and put them down” crowd), but not this place. This is the gym that is all climbing – and that’s a good thing. The community that hangs around there are the climbers you want to meet. These are the ones that will help a complete random stranger – so if you’re a new climber, this is the place to be! If you’re an experienced climber looking for a group to challenge you, this is still the place to be.
There are two Vertical Dreams locations by the way. There’s the Manchester location, which is on the 5th floor of an old mill building. What’s cool about this one? An absolutely massive bouldering cave full of every type of climb you can think of and the infamous elevator shaft that reaches to almost 70 feet (and a ton of smaller walls that are a blast to climb). The Nashua location is a whole different type of sweetness. If you’re interested in working on your top rope or lead climbing skills, this location is more than perfect with crazy arches and complex routes. Feel free to swap constantly between the two locations – we all do it!
Environment: This may seem like a weird one to throw in a review, but so much of person’s perception of a place is about the environment. Are people friendly? Is there a general buzz of excitement? Do I feel welcomed? When it comes to Vertical Dreams, the answer is always ‘Yep’. It’s one of those places that most of the time it’s actually impossible to tell who is on the staff and who isn’t. Random people will offer help, climb together, and just generally be that best part of humanity.
And Vertical Dreams is fun too. There’s always some randomness going on. Last week I showed up to one of the staff playing his favorite Disney songs of all time over the gym speakers (seriously, epic climbing music). Last night the gym manager had made up an absolutely insane obstacle course using hula-hoops, brooms, and rope. Later this month is the annual Halloween party, and yes – climbing in costumes is expected. There’s climbing teams, climbing clubs, birthday parties, MeetUps, the random bachelor/bachelorette party, and so much more.
The Staff: If you read through my other reviews, you’ll notice I’m pretty critical of staff at various places. A bad staff means bad experiences, and that just leads to bad business. Fortunately Vertical Dreams has an amazing staff. While I know that they’re all incredible, a couple favorites (I’m allowed to have favorites, right?) are Mike and Lee. They are so enthusiastic about climbing (and life in general) that you can’t really spend 5 minutes around either of them without wanting to go tackle the biggest problem you can think of – mostly because they’ll be shouting encouragement in whatever form you need it. If you meet either of these guys during a belay lesson, know that you’ll be back. I don’t think it’s possible to not get addicted to climbing after meeting Mike or Lee!
The biggest difference about the staff here is that they’re seriously here for their fellow climbers. If you have a question about your gear, ask it. They won’t mind. If you’re stumped on a route, don’t be surprised if they jump on it and show you some sweet moves to help.
Basically, this place rocks. The routes are awesome, the climbers are great, and the staff can’t be beat. I love it and I think you will too. Come climb sometime!
Some informational links and such:
- Manchester Vertical Dreams
- Nashua Vertical Dreams
- Rates & Hours
- FAQ – Lots of good stuff…