Reach new heights at Shaker Rocks climbing gym!
By Nina Polien Light
The Richman family traveled to youth climbing competitions throughout the country when their three now-grown children were in high school. Along the way, they visited impressive rock gyms that far outshined Cleveland’s facilities.
“I live in Shaker Heights and knowing that the Van Aken District was popping up, I thought it would be a fantastic place to have a modern climbing gym,” says Annie Richman, a former elementary educator, who opened Shaker Rocks in 2019 with her husband, Spencer. “Most rock gyms are in industrial warehouse neighborhoods because that’s where tall buildings can be found. We are in a residential area with restaurants, shops and recreation next door, which is attractive to a lot of people.”
Shaker Rocks sports 14,000 square feet of climbing surface plus a yoga studio, fitness area, locker rooms and a gear shop. Snacks are available as well as space for birthday parties, family reunions, corporate team-building events and other occasions. In addition to open climbing and parties, the facility offers a one-hour “Taste of Climbing” experience, climbing classes, yoga & fitness classes, summer camps and school holiday camps. A youth climbing team is now firmly established having sent five climbers to Youth Nationals in Reno this summer. As climbing was represented for the first time in the 2020 Olympic Games, Richman expects that competitive climbing will become more popular.
Shaker Rocks is open to people of all ages and abilities. Climbing can be a multigenerational family activity, Richman insists.
“It doesn’t matter how young or old or how strong or not strong you may be,” she says. “It’s an activity people can enjoy equally by climbing routes of different difficulties. I can do this with my kids and with my 80-year-old dad.”
Richman says her gym boasts more climbing under one roof than any other gym in northeast Ohio. Several climbing styles are featured. Bouldering allows climbers to scale shorter walls without ropes; after climbing, they drop onto a big, cushy crash pad. Some climbs work with belay and auto-belay devices. Both require the climber to be tethered to a rope. The former relies on a partner to manage the rope, while the latter can be used independently.
“We have lots of lead climbing, which is something that’s been lacking in Cleveland for a long time,” Richman says. “It’s slightly more technical, where you protect yourself as you go instead of being attached to a top rope. You climb and hook the rope into protection above you, then you keep climbing above that until you get to the next piece of protection and so on.”
The gym has the area’s first speed wall, she adds. Speed climbing is one of the three Olympic climbing events.
Among the equipment in Shaker Rocks’ fitness area are a Kilter board, campus rungs, free weights, a bench press and hang boards. Guests are welcome to change clothes and shower in locker rooms before or after workouts, but must provide their own locks and towels.
Annual and monthly memberships are available as are punch cards or day passes. Members and guests may use the entire facility and attend yoga and fitness classes at no extra charge.
Richman says indoor climbing provides more than family-friendly entertainment. It’s a community-building sport with personal benefits that include increased determination, a stronger work ethic, and physical and mental fitness. “It’s one of the rare workouts that is actually fun — you want to keep trying till you get to the top.”
Currently, Shaker Rocks requires masks for everyone entering the building regardless of vaccination status.
3377 Warrensville Center Road