limbing has been a big part of Chris Tansey’s life.
When he was 15, he started working at REI, where employees introduced him to rock climbing. He ascended Pinnacle Peak, Camelback Mountain and the McDowells.
“When I went to college, I started climbing even more in California, from Joshua Tree to Yosemite Valley—all over the climbing scene,” he said.
Early next year, Tansey will share his love of climbing with the North Valley through Gecko Climbing Gym near the I-17 and Happy Valley Road.
“It’s going to be a rock-climbing facility and a yoga studio that will offer opportunities for guests and members to take classes,” Tansey said. “We’ll also have other fitness-related activities. We have another room designated for groups to reserve for birthday parties, youth group lock-ins, corporate groups, or any group for that matter.”
The year 2021 is key to the mainstreaming of rock climbing, as it will be featured in the Tokyo Olympics with three disciplines—speed, bouldering and lead. Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a route on a 15-meter wall. In bouldering, athletes scale a number of fixed routes on a 4.5-meter wall in a specified time. In lead, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 meters high within a specified time.
At the games, climbers will compete in all three disciplines, and the final rankings will be determined by multiplying the placement in each discipline, with the athletes achieving the lowest scores winning medals.
“The climbing community is really jazzed and excited about seeing their sports in the Olympics,” Tansey said. “They will bring climbers from all over the world. To have them on the Olympic stage is great.”
Tansey called the sport a blend of physical and mental strength, and a way to escape the mundane from the world.
“The climbing community is very welcoming and friendly,” the Horizon High School graduate said. “It’s easy to connect with other climbers, who are unified by love and a passion for climbing. In a world full of divisions and barriers, climbing seems to be breaking down and unifying people around the sport. It has the ability to unify others.”
Rock climbing is one of Tansey’s passions. After Horizon, he studied youth ministry and Biblical studies as an undergraduate, and earned his master’s in divinity. He worked as a youth pastor in Scottsdale for six years.
“It has always been a goal of mine to open a climbing gym,” he said. “It’s been in the back of my head, and this is the time to do it. I decided in 2019 to direct my focus on pursuing starting a climbing gym.”
To collect tips on this goal, he attended an industry conference with 1,000-plus professionals. He expanded his network and learned about financial management for climbing gyms, how to host competitions and what padding to use for the gym floor. He started pitching for a small-business loan and was funded in January.
Gecko Climbing Gym is one of at least six similar businesses in the Valley. When it opens, Gecko Climbing Gym will have a 30-foot-clear height, which is great for climbing, he said.
“COVID put a damper on timing for opening,” Tansey said. “We chose not to open in 2020. After many extensions with the timing, spring 2021 is looking much better.”