My fingernails are full of chalk dust, and my hands are regaining their calluses. I was overjoyed to hear that a climbing gym was opening near my home in Shaker Heights, and getting to know Annie and the community she’s building has been such a joy. Her team at Shaker Rocks has helped me start to regain the climbing skills I put on hold for a few years, and introduced my son to a new sport he loves. Annie graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the blog about her experience in the outdoors and starting Shaker Rocks.

Tell me about your experiences that led you to the outdoors. Did you grow up outdoorsy?   I grew up playing in the woods behind my house.  If felt like a huge forest to me, but was actually only a couple of acres at the most.  As a family we raced sailboats in the summer and skied in the winters.  Family vacations consisted of traveling in an RV to National Parks throughout the country.  The outdoors have always been a part of my life whether they be woods, lakes or mountains.

How did you get started climbing? What was your first climbing trip like?  Climbing is always something I yearned to do, but had no context for how to go about learning.  When my three kids were little we took trips to the Cleveland Rock Gym and just continued on that casual path for many years.  One year we took a trip to the New River Gorge and hired a guide to climb with us.  After that we were hooked.  Not only did I love being outside in the beauty of nature, but I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know I had.  It was an amazing feeling knowing that something so beautiful and fun could also be an incredible workout.

What keeps you coming back to climbing and/or the outdoors?  It’s a few things.  Primarily it’s the people.  Climbers are smart and they share my values about caring for the environment.  Climbers are also the most generous and encouraging group of people I’ve ever met.  Secondly, it’s a great workout for the body and the mind.  Like I said before, it works muscles that aren’t typically used in a traditional gym workout, and the problem solving of figuring out how to climb a specified route challenges the mind unlike counting reps at a gym.  Lastly, it’s a social sport.  It’s not something you can do by yourself if you want to climb with ropes.  There is a special bond that develops vey quickly when your life is in someone else’s hands.  

Tell me about Shaker Rocks! We all agree it is the best – what was the hardest part about your path to opening day? The most rewarding?  It was all hard, but the two most challenging things were raising the money and working with the contractor.  I think lots of people can relate to those two difficulties.  The most rewarding part is knowing that we have created a beautiful community of people within my favorite community, Shaker Heights, in such a short period of time.  And even though you didn’t ask, the most fun part for me is sitting at the front desk and watching people’s faces as they walk through the door for the first time.  We designed the space to have a “wow factor” upon entering, and I think we nailed it. [Ed. note: you totally did!]

Thanks so much for sharing with us! You can find more info on Shaker Rocks at their website.