We're Open From 10am To 10pm All Long Weekend February 16-18.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I get started?

We recommend the 1-hour Introductory Lesson as the best starting point.

What is the minimum age to climb?

There is no minimum age. If a kid can walk, they can climb. We allow children 3 and under to climb for free, under the close supervision of a parent (1:1 ratio). We have a few full-body harnesses available for children who are too small for the regular rental harness. Children between 4 and 12 require close supervision with no more than 3 kids per adult.

There is also no such thing as being “too old” to climb. We offer discount rates to seniors and have several members who take advantage of that.  Our oldest climber so far was an 89-year old grandmother!

Do I need to take a lesson before I climb?

You can come and boulder (low climbing without ropes) without a lesson. You can also use our Auto Belay stations after taking a quick safety orientation. Check out all the ways to climb here.

What does an Introductory Lesson include?

The Introductory Lesson includes a day pass, with shoes and a harness, and will teach you how to:

1. Put on your climbing harness

2. Tie into the climbing rope with a figure-eight follow-through and keeper knot

3. Operate the belay device (called a “Grigri”) safely to control the rope for your climbing partner.

4. Safety orientation on the use of Auto Belays in the gym.

Do I need to book in advance?

We request advance booking for the following services, in order to ensure we have enough room and staff to take care of you:

Introductory Lessons (1 day or more; we offer the Lesson almost every hour on the hour, but the lessons often fill up)

Weekend Scramble Sessions (3 days or more)

Private Lessons (2 days or more)

Birthday Parties, School groups, Corporate groups (1 week; 2 weeks for groups of more than 20)

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable, athletic clothing that lets you move freely. If you wear shorts, avoid very short shorts, as they can be uncomfortable with the harness straps. Bring flip-flops if you expect to be taking off your climbing shoes often (they can fit very snugly, and some people like to give their feet a break!). Those with long hair should bring a hair elastic to tie it up. A water bottle is a good idea. Note that we do not sell bottled water (out of concern for the environment); we have a water fountain providing all the clean water you want for free! Bring a lock to secure your valuables (or you can buy one from us); there are lots of lockers in each change room.

Do I need a partner?

You need a climbing partner for roped climbing, but you may boulder (low climbing without ropes) on your own if you like. You can also use Auto Belays without a partner.

How can I find a partner?

We recommend the Meetup.com web site to find a climbing partner.

Can I bring my kids to climb?

Absolutely! Kids of all ages love climbing, though we find that those 8 or older are more likely to enjoy an extended session. For top-rope climbing, you’ll need to either know how to belay, or book a spot in one of our Weekend Scramble Sessions well in advance.

Please note that all those under 18 must have a Minor Waiver Form initialed and signed by their parent. This form can also be completed digitally online here on our web site. If you are bringing along nieces or nephews or friends of your children, you must get this form filled out and initialed/signed by their parent.

We allow children 3 and under to climb for free, under the close supervision of a parent (1:1 ratio). We have a few full-body harnesses available for children who are too small for the regular rental harness. Children between 4 and 12 require close supervision with no more than 3 kids per adult.

What is the difference between bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing?

Bouldering is low climbing without ropes. It can be done alone, and does not require any certification or instruction. Top-roping is the most common type of climbing you’ll see in the gym, in which a climber goes up a fixed rope while their partner manages the rope (“belays” them). Lead climbing is a more advanced form, in which the climber brings their own rope along as they climb, clipping into quickdraws attached to the wall. Lead climbing requires advanced training, and allows access into the steepest parts of the gym where top-ropes cannot be attached.

What is belaying?

Whenever anyone climbs on a rope, they need a partner to control the rope for them to keep them safe. The partner takes up the slack in the rope as the climber goes up the wall, and lowers them gently to the padded floor when they’re done. This is called belaying.  If you don’t know how to belay, you can learn in our 1 Hour Introductory Lesson.

What is an auto belay?

An auto belay is an automatic belay device that takes up the slack as a climber ascends the climbing wall. When the climber reaches the top, or if they fall, the auto belay catches the climber and slowly lowers them to the ground. Auto belays allow people to climb when a partner is not available and to climb on their own schedule. New climbers can learn to love the movement of climbing before they learn the technical skills of belaying. We have 12 Perfect Descent auto belay systems installed in the gym, with a wide range of climbing grades to cater to everyone.

What is the minimum age to belay?

You must be 13 or older to belay. This is the age where we feel kids generally have both the physical capability and the maturity to handle this responsibility.  For school groups receiving belay instruction, the minimum age is 14 (we have found it challenging to get large groups of 13 year olds to stay focused during the lesson). We occasionally make exceptions to this policy on a case-by-case basis for exceptional youth climbers, such as the members of our Youth Competitive Team.

What if I already know how to belay?

Those who know how to top-rope belay must pass our Belay Safety Test before they are allowed to do so in our gym. This short, free test is available on demand, and requires demonstration of the 3 skills taught in the 1 Hour Introductory Lesson.

What if I already know how to Lead belay?

Those who know how to lead climb/belay must pass our Lead Test before being allowed to lead climb or belay in our gym. The $20 test fee is refunded if you pass the test. Your test should be booked in advance to ensure a qualified instructor is available. The test covers all the safety issued related to lead climbing, including proper clipping, rope management, falling and belaying, including a dynamic catch.

Is there a fee for a belay test?

The Belay Test is free of charge. There is a $20 fee for the Lead Test, which is refunded if you pass the test. If you do not pass, the fee can be applied against the cost of our Lead Climbing Class.

Can I show my friend how to belay?

No. Only True North Climbing instructors may instruct in our gym. This is both to keep our insurance company and lawyer happy, and also to ensure that our high standard of safety is consistently applied.

Safety & The Gym

Is climbing a dangerous “extreme” sport?

As a gravity-defying activity, rock climbing brings with it the perception of being an “extreme sport”. The reality is that indoor climbing, when done properly, can be enjoyed by almost anyone. Our goal at True North Climbing is to take all reasonable steps to reduce the inherent risks of climbing to an absolute minimum, and to make sure all our customers are aware of the best ways to manage them.

How do I stay safe while bouldering?

To stay safe while bouldering, make sure you are not climbing above or below another climber. Keep your personal items away from the wall and landing zone, so you don’t fall on top of anything but the padded floor. When coming off the wall, try to land on your feet, with your knees bent. Our instructors can give you tips on spotting each other, which you may want to do, especially on the steeper sections.

Can you explain the grading system for bouldering?

Bouldering problems are graded according to the Hueco V system. In most gyms bouldering grades start at V0 (approximately equal in difficulty to a 5.9 roped climb) and go up from there to V10 (crazy hard) or higher. As a result, many beginners find bouldering too difficult and quickly decide they don’t like it. At True North Climbing we have added a grade easier than V0, called VB (B for basic or beginner). VB climbs are set with kids and beginners in mind, so everyone can get to the top and enjoy bouldering. The free-standing rock in the middle of the gym also has easy bouldering on it (unmarked, using its natural features).

What is the rating system for Top-Rope Climbing?

Our roped routes use the Yosemite rating system. The ratings are all of the form 5.#, where the 5 indicates a Class 5 climb where a rope is required to keep the climber safe, and the # ranges from 5 to 13 or more. So a 5.5 climb is suitable for beginners, and a 5.13 climb will test the strongest climbers. The higher ratings (starting from 5.10) are further divided into + and – ratings, so a 5.10- is harder than a 5.9 climb, but easier than a 5.10+. Ratings are approximate and subjective, and climbers love to argue about them (“There’s no way that’s a 5.9!”). It’s impossible to be exact with ratings because so many factors combine to form the difficulty of a climb for a given climber, including:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Ape index (the difference in inches between your arm span and your height)
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Strength (arm, finger, legs, core)
  • Climbing experience
  • Technique
  • Knowledge of the route
  • Confidence
  • How much gravity there is on a given day

What is your Belay Tag System?

Because our gym is large, and there are many people coming and going each day, we have adopted a belay tag system to keep track of who is certified to do what in the gym. This allows our staff to tell at a glance when someone is doing something questionable. We issue the following types of belay tags:

  • White: observer or climb-only. The person has a valid waiver and is allowed in the climbing area, but may not belay
  • Pink: just completed an Introductory Lesson. The person has shown competence, but will be watched carefully by our staff to ensure they’re not forgetting anything! Pink tags are also given to those who needed a little help from the instructor in their belay test; they will be retested on the next visit.
  • Blue: permitted to use the Auto Belay systems.
  • Red: certified for top-rope belay. The person has passed our Belay Test.
  • Green: certified for lead belay. The person has passed our Lead Test. The lead belay tags are clearly marked with the type(s) of belay device for which the person has demonstrated competence: T (tube device, such as an ATC), G (Grigri) or T/G (both kinds of device).
  • Light Green: certified to lead climb only, but not belay. These are issued only to youth climbers who are lead climbing (usually in preparation for competition) but are not yet ready to lead belay.

What kind of equipment do you use?

We buy all of our climbing equipment from professional climbing manufacturers, and each item meets the appropriate standards of either the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) or UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme or International Federation of Mountaineering Associations). This includes our ropes, carabiners, gri-gris, quickdraws and harnesses. 

What is the Staff/Child Ratio?

During day camp, school groups and birthday parties when our staff are belaying children, we maintain a ratio of 1 staff member for every 6 children or less (1:5 for shorter events such as birthday parties). We feel this allows us to maintain control of the group, and also allows enough climbing time for each child.

How safe is the padded floor?

In the advanced bouldering area, we chose Asana’s custom padding solution.  We believe our flooring system provides good support with the right balance between a firm surface and a soft landing. It is designed for foot falls, and the wall angles are designed to minimize the chance of falling on your back as you climb higher.

Do you provide First Aid?

We maintain a properly stocked first aid kit in the gym, including EpiPens for both adults and children, and an AED at the entrance to the gym. All of our Climbing Instructors have first aid training that includes use of both EpiPens and the AED.

What training and certifications do your Staff have?

We take safety into account when hiring our staff. All of our Climbing Instructors are required to have a valid First Aid certificate at least equivalent to St John Ambulance Standard First Aid with CPR. This includes training in the use of the EpiPens and AED that we have on site. In addition, all employees have all gone through a Police Reference check, as a means of protecting the children who use our facility.

It is our intention that all of our instructors attain an appropriate level of certification to demonstrate their qualifications and professionalism. There are two certification programs that we support:

Association of Canadian Mountain Guides

Climbing Wall Association

All of our Climbing Instructors have at least one of the above certifications.

Who built your walls?

Our climbing structures were built by Eldorado Climbing Walls of Boulder, Colorado. Eldorado has been building climbing walls for more than 15 years, and has designed and installed hundreds of walls across North America. These guys know what they are doing, and they adhere to and exceed the standards drawn up by the Climbing Wall Association, the relevant industry trade group. 

Is there free parking at the gym?

Yes, lots of free parking right at our door!  But getting to our door can be tricky the first time, so please take a look at the map on our Location Page and don’t trust your GPS!

What is Slacklining?

Slacklining is a balance sport. It started from climbers horsing around at their campsites after a day of climbing, stringing their webbing up and trying to walk on it. We have two slacklines set up in front of the bouldering area. It’s sort of like a tightrope, except it’s not tight, and it’s not rope. The line is bouncy (like a very thin trampoline), and while it’s tricky at first, anyone can master it with enough practice.

February 20, 2015 ptmvinson