By Aliya Hall

Climbing and bouldering have both increased in popularity in recent years. Because of the rising interest, there are many different offerings to fit what you’re looking for. In Eugene, Marra Watson, co-owner of Crux Rock Climbing Gym, says “all the gyms are unique” and there are multiple options.

Each gym offers a different take on climbing, according to Michael Hudson, owner of Elevation Bouldering Gym. Because of that, there is no rivalry between any of the local gyms, and he encourages new climbers to try out each one to see which is the best fit for them.

Photo courtesy of Crux Climbing Gym

Crux Climbing Gym

Crux, the oldest climbing gym in Eugene, emphasizes the fitness and environmental connections to climbing. First opened in 1994 by Ron and Debbie Vickrey, the gym switched ownership in 2018. When climbing enthusiasts and personal trainers Marra and Morgan Watson took over, they also took an interest in expanding Crux’s features.

Crux offers a diverse set of climbing fitness options, including bouldering, top-rope climbing, and lead climbing. They also have personal trainer packages, an upstairs gym, and they are working on opening up a cafe.

“I think bodies are so awesome, and when we’re feeling good and strong, we’re out doing a lot more,” Watson says. “I believe that leads to more connection with our environment, which is super important.”

Watson says Crux is very outdoors oriented, and both owners think indoor climbing is an opportunity to awaken customers to the possibilities outside as well as broadening their climbing horizons.

“Now, in the current culture, you could be a climber and never go outdoors,” she says. “I like connecting people to outdoor spaces. There’s so many more options.”

Both Watson and her husband encourage the fitness and nutrition that make bodies feel more energetic and alive. She says that increases “our sense of adventure.”

It doesn’t take a certain type of person to climb, either, Watson says. Growing up, she was always drawn to adventure stories but thought that wasn’t for her. Then she came across a quote from Jack Kerouac about how he follows after those who follow their dreams, and she thought if he just considered himself someone who followed adventurous people, she could do that, too.

“(Climbing) gives you a sense of accomplishment to overcome those physical obstacles that make mental or other obstacles you have in your life seem more possible,” she says. “I think we have so much untapped potential, and I really like watching people start to see that in themselves.”

Photo courtesy of Elevation Bouldering Gym

Elevation Bouldering Gym

Michael Hudson, owner of Elevation, discovered climbing 19 years ago, and it was such a positive influence on him, he wanted to share it with other people. “It was so transformative to me because I was able to do things I didn’t think I could do physically or mentally,” he says. “I was so invested in climbing, and I saw the things that tripped other people up when they climbed and tried to design a space to make it as easy as possible for people to engage with climbing in the way I find it to be interesting.”

After working at Crux for 16 years, Hudson opened Elevation in 2017. His gym focuses specifically on bouldering. He wanted to try something elemental where it’s just the climber, something to climb, and something to fall down on.

“Climbing isn’t just about climbing something big, it could be climbing something interesting,” he says, adding that a lot of the focus at his gym is on the technical aspects of movement and the problem-solving aspects of climbing.

Hudson said new climbers will be surprised by what they can do and how empowering it is to climb. Climbing is intentional, he says. It’s not just about being a strong person who can pull themselves up, it’s also about moving thoughtfully and efficiently.

“The most rewarding aspect is watching people grow as humans and become more confident in themselves,” Hudson says. “It happens pretty often at the gym and you see it in people’s faces, and that’s satisfying.”


Where to Climb

Please call before visiting.

Crux Rock Climbing Gym | 401 W 3rd Ave. | 541/484-9535

Elevation Bouldering Gym | 348 Lincoln St. | 541/972-3595

Rock District, University of Oregon | 1273 University of Oregon | 541/346-4183

Bob Keefer Center | 250 S 32nd St., Springfield | 541/736-4544