This post will highlight Climb Nittany, the new indoor rock-climbing gym located in Boalsburg, PA, as well as details from an interview with Head Climbing Coach and Facility Manager, Mark Grummun.
Centre County, Pennsylvania. This area is well known for being the home to the Pennsylvania State University. Having the University established here has led people from all over the world to converge on this rural area for many different reasons. Some of which include big-time college football games, world-class academics, and an upbeat and cultured downtown setting. Many others flock to the same area to enjoy some of the country’s best natural beauty and outdoor experiences. The county is known for having some of the best fly-fishing in the world, first-class hiking trails, and plenty of parks and areas for people to enjoy Pennsylvania’s natural beauty. Considering the county is engulfed in the Appalachian Mountain Chain, many outsiders may believe that rock climbing is another staple to the county’s community. However, this has not been true until the highly anticipated opening of Climb Nittany, the area’s first indoor rock-climbing gym. More Centre County attractions can be found here.
I was eager to learn more about Climb Nittany, so I reached out to Mark Grummun, who is a Head Climbing Coach and Facility Manager at the gym. From this call, I gained so much more than I honestly anticipated. I was blown away by Mark’s passion for the sport of climbing and his team’s motivations for opening the gym in Centre County. Mark’s passion for the sport began at a young age. To his memory, his first experience climbing was when he was around 7 or 8 years old. This commencement of a life-long climbing journey occurred in the Doylestown Rock Gym in his hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. His mother worked at the gym so he would spend plenty of time there learning the ropes! He climbed on and off throughout his youth and teen years but really found his passion for the sport in college.
Mark’s over two decades of climbing experience, as well as almost 10 years of experience in route setting as well as coaching, made him a more than desirable candidate to be offered his position at Climb Nittany. The opportunity to go work at this new gym was a no-brainer. In our conversation, he mentioned how Centre County is a gorgeous area that offers a little bit of everything. Mark touched on how he enjoys going for hikes in Rothrock State Forest and other surrounding trails as well as spending time around the area’s streams. The combination of a new career opportunity combined with what the surrounding area had to offer was key to his decision to pack up and head to Centre County! You can learn more about everything Rothrock State Forest has to offer here.
There were many motivations for deciding to open Climb Nittany up in Centre County. After conversing with Mark, the persuasion point that seemed to hit the hardest for opening the gym in this area was the demographic of people that Centre County presents. As mentioned prior, many people flock to this area for what the natural resources provide in a recreational sense. The one piece of the puzzle that seemed to be missing for outdoor adventures was a place to climb. Climb Nittany is that puzzle piece. In recent years, the sport of climbing has taken off across both the United States and the World. The 2020 and now 2021 Summer Olympics have added climbing as a sport for the first time in history. 99Boulders.com shows a constant growth in the number of new climbing gyms opened in the US in 8 of the last 9 years. People want to climb.
In my conversation with Mark, he also alluded to how there is also a fitness boom going on in our country with the younger generations in America. It was stressed how the gym brings so much more to its members than just simply “climb time.” Climbing provides a full-body workout that uses many muscles in a way that they are not used in a conventional gym setting. This may be appealing to fitness buffs and college students who want to get out there and try something new.
Besides the recent appeal of climbing and fitness in our country, Mark was very adamant and passionate about how the gym offers so much more than simply “climbing” or a “workout.” The gym aims to build confidence in its members and create a community here in Central PA. These goals are attained through all the different amenities and options that the gym has to offer.
What makes the gym so much bigger than simply a place to climb? This question can be answered by digging deeper into all of the services that the gym has to offer, as well as the passion of all the Climb Nittany employees. The gym offers daily passes, 10-day punch cards, as well as all-inclusive memberships. In order to get the full experience of the gym, people are encouraged to become members, however stopping by for a day here and there makes for an awesome experience as well! The memberships include unlimited climbing at all 5Life climbing locations, discounts on classes, youth clubs, and camps as well as free clinics and member appreciation events. These details can be found here.
A membership to Climb Nittany is so much more than simply unlimited climbs or some free classes. Membership can be a confidence booster and an invitation into a great community. While talking to Mark I was taken away by his passion for teaching the sport, even after almost 10 years doing so! He talked about while spending time on the wall, people often surprise themselves. Climbers sometimes look at a route and think to themselves that there is no way they can complete the climb. After practicing the route and failing, they often figure out different ways to complete the climb. This will to overcome obstacles can be showcased in all aspects of people’s lives.
While talking to Mark, I was embarrassed to let him know that I had never climbed in my life. I asked him if I would be able to still enjoy Climb Nittany and all it had to offer with no prior experience at all. He chuckled at my question and reassured me that all skill levels were welcomed and encouraged to spend some time at the new facility. Mark touched on how the gym presented more than simply an open-gym concept. There are experienced coaches with a passion for the sport there to coach the members through each route. The coaches do more than simply help with climbs, they build confidence.
The coaching at Climb Nittany is first-class. Mark highlighted how the coaches at their gym use an approach that is goal-oriented. Having the members set specific goals to work towards gives them a desire to keep coming back and bettering themselves. In order to achieve these goals, the coaches use specific programming in order to get their members to where they want to be. This programming allows the climbers to flourish due to the individualized approach on where each individual needs improvement and what needs to change for them to be successful.
Beyond confidence-building and technique coaching, the coaches at Climb Nittany
teach their students about Rope Systems. By teaching students how to set up for a climb in a safe and effective manner ensures that safety is their priority. Having a basic knowledge of rope systems will give the members of Climb Nittany the skills needed to climb in many environments. It will also allow them to share their love and knowledge of the sport with others in order to help climbing continue to grow.
Climb Nittany is conveniently located in Boalsburg, PA just off Route 322. This location is great due to its proximity to many other attractions in the area. The location is a quick fourteen-minute drive from the Penn State campus. It is also very close to Rothrock State Forest as well as just down the road from the many attractions that Tussey Mountain has to offer. The proximity to 322 allows people who are headed into State College from the East to easily stop by and check out the gym.
Climb Nittany is the newest location to be a part of the 5.Life Group. 5.Life is the parent company of Climb Nittany. This company’s goal is to provide people with the best climbing experience possible. The company was founded by Carrie and Alexis Roccos when they opened their first gym, Vertical Adventures, in Ohio back in 1994. 5.Life prides themselves on staying true to their core values. More information about this first-class organization can be found here on their website here.
While wrapping up my conversation with Mark I asked him the question, “What’s your favorite hold?” He chuckled at the question, however, I could tell that he has had plenty of experience based on his response. He said that his answer is “day-to-day,” however on that particular day his favorite hold was the “Pinch.” I reluctantly assured him that I was unaware of what that meant considering I have never been climbing, however, he gave me a very thorough answer. He explained how a “pinch” required the climber to wrap their thumb and fingers around the rock.
Next time you venture to Centre County be sure to take some time to stop off 322 and check out Climb Nittany and all that it has to offer. The climbing gym is the last piece in Centre County’s outdoor attraction puzzle. The staff is world-class and extremely passionate about what they do. Spending time in the gym pushes the climbers in all aspects of their life and allows them to be a part of something that is so much bigger than themselves. Maybe I will even gain an opinion on what hold is my favorite after spending some time in the wall! More photos and backstories from the gym can be found on their Instagram page here.
Written by J. Brett Funk
Edited by Kashia Quay