Timon Behan made the mountain come to him. Combining 33,000 pounds of steel beams, countless sheets of plywood, just as many handholds and 16,000 hand-drilled holes in the wall, he set out to build a 40-foot, indoor mountain at his climbing gym, Wild Walls. He did have some help, and since the last bolt was tightened in 1994, kids, teens, adults and retirees with cravings for some vertical action have been climbing his mountain.
This year, Behan's amazing climbing structure beat out all the natural-made ones in the area as the best place to climb.
"This really is a great place for families and friends to meet and do something together," he says, as we watch climbers spider-walk their way up the walls on a recent weeknight. "I mean, people meet here and end up getting married. We have climbs that kids can do and some very, very hard ones that all have different emphasis on different types of strength." A girl who looks no older than 5 skips by, proving his point. Behan insists you are never too old to take up climbing and says a fear of heights is no excuse, either.
"I think all climbers are afraid of heights, I know I am sometimes, but we do all we can to make it safe," he explains. Behan has climbed since 1977 and began pursuing his dream of owning an indoor climbing gym in 1993.
Doesn't he think it's strange that an indoor facility beats out all the real mountain peaks the Inland Northwest is so famous for?
"No, not really. If you work, you don't have time to drive out to the rocks and set up after work. It'll take you at least two hours to get going," says Behan. "No matter what type of climbing you like, you can practice here, instantly, and it's a great way to stay in shape so you're ready when the outdoor season really picks up."
On March 29, Wild Walls holds its seventh annual spring climbing festival, with sanctioned competition climbs for all age and skill levels.
At Wild Walls you can climb as much or as little as you like, rent all your gear or you can bring your own stuff. There are also summer camps, birthday parties and business outings available.
"As something new, we are installing small climbing walls in elementary schools, they are just eight feet high and 30 feet long," says Behan. "The kids love it, especially the ones that are, like, all over the place -- you have to stay focused when you climb or you'll fall off the wall."
Second place: Minnehaha Park
Third place: Bowl and Pitcher