ASU alumnus and veteran opens bouldering gym in Phoenix

Chris Dodge explains how bouldering was helpful for him while in the Army and how it helps the community

Everyone has different forms of stress relief — for some it's yoga, for others it's playing music, but for Chris Dodge it’s bouldering

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing but without the harness or the ropes. The only thing holding you on to the wall are your hands and your feet.

Chris Dodge, ASU alumnus and president of Black Rock Bouldering Gym, found his passion for bouldering while serving in the Army. Dodge opened the gym two months ago on Aug. 9, and is located on 32nd Street in Phoenix.

Getting bored of traditional gyms, Dodge wanted to switch up his workout routine while still maintaining his physical fitness. He found that with bouldering he could forget everything else going on and be focused solely on himself and the wall.

“I got into bouldering because I would try to do something outside of the normal work out in a traditional gym, and I didn’t always have somebody to go with,” Dodge said.

ASU alumnus and veteran opens bouldering gym in Phoenix from The State Press on Vimeo. Video by Mingson Lau.

Noticeably, bouldering requires a certain amount of strength to get to the top of the wall. Dodge said that the physical aspect is important because it gets him motivated to do something, helps him forget what went on in the day and focus on what he was doing in the moment.

“I found that it allowed me to focus on what was right in front of me but also help me stay in shape,” Dodge said. “So it kind of served two purposes.”

Dodge said he feels that the mental aspect of bouldering often gets overlooked and overshadowed by the physical part of it.

“(The mental part is) focusing on what’s right there because if you try to think about what happened earlier in the day or you worry about what you have to do that night, you can’t climb and there’s an immediate consequence, which is falling off the wall,” Dodge said.

Not only did bouldering help Dodge during his time in the military, he said he believes that it’s beneficial for others outside the military as well. 

With rock climbing, you can physically see your progression as you move from one level to the next, giving people who try it, a sense of accomplishment, Dodge said.

“In a weight room or any type of other fitness programs, it’s like you’re basing your progression off of how much weight you can lift or how much weight you’re able to move, here you’re actually creating puzzles,” Dodge said. “You’re trying to solve the problem when you’re on the wall, and by getting to the top, you solve the problem.”

Marcella Colombus, Black Rock staff member, said she also believes that bouldering is beneficial to the community.

“I think rock climbing is a really great way to work out because it is community based, they’re usually here for two to three hours because they’re working out but they’re connecting with people and bonding,” Colombus said.

Written on front of the building and hashtagged on the website is Black Rock’s motto: Moving with a Purpose.

Dodge explained that this was a saying while he was in the military. Everything that he did was done with a purpose. Taking this idea from the military, Dodge wanted a saying that would encompass the experience that people are getting at his gym.

“When you wake up in the morning, get up and live with a purpose," he said. "If you’re going to do something, do it with intention, do it with a motivation and a reason behind it."

The saying also serves as a double entendre, he said, because in life you have move with a purpose, when climbing you have to keep moving with the purpose of reaching the top of the wall.

The gym officially opened two months ago and Dodge said has already seen great success. Dodge said the business aspect of the gym is doing better than he expected, but that’s not necessarily where he finds his success. 

“I think its successful because I get to see how many people are having fun with it," Dodge said. "That was always a measure of success for me."

Dodge said that the two things that were important to him about his business was that he had a friendly staff and a clean facility. 

Brandon Payne, 19 and student at Paradise Valley Community College, chose Black Rock Gym over other bouldering gyms because of the friendly staff and fun atmosphere.

“They have such a small staff and they’re here like every day,” Payne said. “I know all the people by name — it’s just a good atmosphere and it’s fun to be here.”


Reach the reporter at bmchugh4@asu.edu or follow @blakelymchugh on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.