Locals build climbing gym from scratch

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A personal desire of two avid Sheridan rock climbers will soon turn into a community hangout for all ages.

Johnny Crider and Justin Case, both born and raised in Sheridan, serve as American Mountain Guides Association rock guides in the area. The two lead other climbers through more than 750 routes spread throughout the Bighorn Mountains and adventure in the routes established in Story, Ten Sleep, Tongue River Canyon, Steamboat Point and Red Grade.

Even with the endless adventures in the Bighorns, winter weather hits and makes climbing less ideal. So Crider and Case travel out of town to enjoy climbing indoors.

A past facility in Sheridan, Tie Flume, included limited climbing walls along with a zipline and other activities for a younger crowd. Crider and Case formulated a plan of their own while climbing in the Bighorns and other climbing gyms in Wyoming and Montana.

And nearly simultaneously, things started coming together for the two men.

Billings’ climbing gym — Steep World — built a new facility and sold its old foam flooring to Crider and Case.

“We just decided to buy the foam. We didn’t really have a place to go yet,” Case said. “That was the spark.”

From there, the two discovered a vacant space on Commercial Avenue. The owners of the building, Karen Powers and Cheryl Sinclair, store equipment for the Bighorn Trail Run on one side, but sought someone to lease the other half of the building. Case and Crider jumped at the opportunity to build their dream into reality.

“From there things really started to snowball,” Case said.

“It’s pretty wild how it all came together,” Crider added.

Both Case and Crider bring in construction and carpentry experience, with Case working as a carpenter for Ace Builders while Crider excavates for a local construction company. Between the two of them and with occasional help from friends, they’ve managed to nearly complete the skeleton of the climbing walls.

A route sits in place for Case, Crider and friends to practice when they aren’t measuring and cutting backboards. A large photograph graces the south wall of the building, donning the business’s name — Bighorn Summit — underneath a photo of Crider climbing outdoors.

The project will certainly satisfy the needs of the builders behind it, but their idea extends beyond selfish ambitions. Both Crider and Case highly anticipate creating a competitive youth climbing team. Lander has an established climbing team of around 20 kids; Crider and Case look to form a team to bring the neighbors some competition in the upcoming year.

The two hope a specified lounge space and retractable corner gym will create an atmosphere welcoming to students of all ages to come and do homework in between climbing.

“We want it to be youth friendly;” Case said. “A place for kids to go.”

In addition to the climbing team, Case and Crider hope to establish after-school programs, and really encourage all ranges of climbers to use the facility.

“It’s going to run the gamut,” Case said. “We’re trying to make it from advanced climbers to first-day.”

Their feedback from the community so far has been encouraging.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback,” Case said. “It’s been pretty nice, actually. It seems like we’ll have a lot of people; hopefully we’ll have a lot of members right off the bat.”

Case and Crider will host Bighorn Summit’s open house May 5, featuring food, music and local art booths.

By |March 13th, 2018|

About the Author:

Ashleigh Fox joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as the government, cops and courts reporter. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles, CA. Before working in Sheridan, she worked as a sports editor for the Sidney Herald in Sidney, MT. Email Ashleigh at: ashleigh.fox@thesheridanpress.com

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