Living on the Edge

Published on: Fri, Jul 01, 2016


Summit Gym Offers New Highs

I am 10 feet off the ground, clinging to an angular wall strewn with artificial holds in shapes 160326009RobertoAguilar_SummitGymKBunknown to nature, when I come to a crossroads. I can either take the “easy” path, wildly grabbing for a small blue handhold roughly the size and shape of a walnut above me, or swing my leg up above my head toward a slightly larger orange hold that feels miles away. To be clear, my legs don’t go that way – even if I could stop them from quaking for just a moment. Either move, if done correctly, will get me to the top of my route.

With sweat dripping down my face and, more importantly, all over my palms, I choose the first option, hurling myself skyward – OK, sure, it was only a few inches above me – and narrowly grab the handhold. I precariously scale the rest of the face, touch the top with a wheeze and drop down to the padded blue floor below. Although it wasn’t the hardest route offered – one particularly muscular college student to my right dangles like Spiderman in the middle of a difficult path – I feel a bit of elation. I beat the wall.


Photo courtesy of Roberto Aguilar.

That’s just another day at Summit Yoga, Climbing and Fitness Gym in Denton, the only privately-owned climbing gym in the city limits. Summit is not only the premier site for indoor “bouldering” – a sport modeled after rope-free rock climbing – in the city, but also a central hot spot for yoga enthusiasts and those looking for the feeling of having the outdoors and community in their fitness routine. For those seeking a new experience – and maybe a bit of trial and error – Summit is the place to go.

Summit is a new fixture just off Denton’s downtown square, although one would think a building lined floor-to-ceiling with angular climbing walls would be a bit more conspicuous from the street. Instead, the new space – it opened its doors in November 2015 – lies in a discreet building just one block from Denton’s main tourist hub and offers a small home away from home for its members and visitors. Summit Denton is the fourth branch of the Summit gym chain, with other locations in Dallas, Carrollton and Grapevine, and it is the first local gym outside of the University of North Texas’ Recreation Center to offer indoor climbing. With climbing walls, a yoga and exercise studio in the back and a friendly staff, Summit is reminiscent of any local spot – including its own unique characters and an “everybody knows your name” mentality.

“The people and the music are really cool, and I’ve made some friends just coming in and hanging out,” said Rachel Jacobs, a student at the University of North Texas. “The staff just makes the whole experience so welcoming.”

But the highlights of any trip to Summit are those ubiquitous climbing walls of which I, as a beginning climber, failed to conquer far more often than I succeeded. For many folks first getting into climbing, or any new sport for that matter, comfort is key. As you first enter Summit, that feeling of acceptance is immediate – and don’t mind those first falls, climbing is all about chasing the thrill of victory. What’s victory without a few (completely safe) tumbles first, right? That’s what I keep telling myself, at least. From the climbing courses for beginners, to friendly staff willing to give you crucial climbing advice and even reasonable gear rental prices, everything is covered for the budding climber.

Summit Climbing gym button“We try to provide you with all of the tools necessary to live a healthy, active lifestyle while minimizing risk of injury,” said Logan Prentice, an assistant manager at Summit. “We will take you on an orientation your first time here to show you the ropes, and we’re also available during any of your subsequent visits if you ever need a refresher or some help on a specific climb.”

Indoor bouldering has become a legitimate phenomenon in cities throughout the country. In Texas, outdoor destinations like McKinney Falls, Rogers Park and bouldering mecca Hueco Tanks have become hotspots for climbers to venture into the wild and hit some world-class climbing. But in cities all over the state, indoor gyms have captured the outdoor craze by installing artificial walls with movable grips and holds, joined together to form full route “problems” in bouldering parlance. Summit offers hundreds of “problems” for climbers, ranging from beginner climbs to more advanced routes. Each of the problems are rated on “V” grades, increasing in difficulty from 0 to 16 and put together by Summit’s dedicated group of route planners – men and women tasked with tinkering with the wall to challenge climbers to push themselves on each visit to the gym.

This range of options allows Summit to court a wide range of climbers, not just athletic college students fresh out of the weight room but also men and women of all ages (including kids) and physical capability. And even if new customers are uncomfortable with renting out their first pair of climbing shoes – a sort of tight, hybrid ballet shoe that helps your feet stick to the holds and caused my virgin feet to turn blue – and hitting the wall, Summit’s selection of in-house classes appeal not only to the budding climber but also those looking to up their skill set. The gym offers Climbing 101 courses, aimed at beginning climbers and those looking for a welcoming and non-judgmental climbing experience, as well as a new program called ClimbFit, which is a targeted exercise program for many climbers to broaden their “problem-solving” ability on the wall.

Despite the immense satisfaction that bouldering offers, Summit also holds a range of courses in yoga and core-building for those feeling slightly less intrepid and far more flexible. Classes in Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga and shoulder and hip “liberation” are held most days of the week at reasonable prices for non-members and allow any visitor to jump into a friendly environment and exercise in a more controlled environment. While Summit is one of many yoga studios in the Denton area, it offers the benefit of a central location and an unpretentious environment – something that might be a surprise for longtime yogis. In addition, the gym also rents out yoga mats to its customers.


Photo courtesy of Roberto Aguilar.

But a major concern for many visitors – not just college students – to any yoga and climbing gym is the prohibitive prices. This is where Summit’s membership program steals the show. Becoming a member at Summit offers a wealth of benefits, including earlier access to the gym’s climbing walls, unlimited courses each month, free gear rental for the first month and a continuing discount on rentals after that. But there are many ways to pay to play beyond the membership program, with a number of prepaid options as well as group prices. The gym even offers daily rates for visitors who may just be passing through to soak up a bit of the Denton atmosphere. And make no mistake, that atmosphere is what Summit has in spades.

“We like to think of it as a family that you’re joining when you come sign up,” said Logan. “Climbers are a notoriously close-knit group of people and Summit is no different.”
Summit has gone out of its way since its inception to market to Dentonites and visitors, including offering special ladies’ and guys’ nights on Friday and Saturday evenings respectively, 2-for-1 specials on Wednesdays and even matinee pricing on Mondays before 2 p.m. With all of these deals, and all of the savings offered through its membership programs, Summit has made a significant effort to appeal to those willing to try a new experience with limited pocketbooks – yes, myself included. Even despite that, I might argue, the welcoming environment is enough to give it a try.

On top of all of the exciting attractions in Denton Square and numerous options to soak up the “dentoning” experience, choose Summit for a refreshing change of pace. If you are in search of a local business that captures the Denton flavor – and maybe makes your forearms sore for three days afterward, assuming you are in as poor of shape as I am – then there’s a good chance you have found your home away from home. Also, don’t hike your leg above your head while climbing. That was a choice I regret.


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