Place to Be: The Aviary

The Aviary is officially open.

The new, state-of-the-art climbing wall is tucked into a corner on the second floor of the new SUB, features 25 routes with 25 more on the way, top roping and lead climbing, a ceiling and is open to everyone. The best part? It’s one thirteenth of the price of local climbing gyms.

Corey Kelly, an elected Varsity Outdoor Club executive and the heart and soul of the Aviary, describes the wall as a three story, climbing facility. "It’s a proper climbing wall. It’s what you’d find in any commercial climbing facility."

Kelly has been working alongside the VOC, the AMS, five routesetters and over 20 monitors who have all been instrumental in getting the wall up and running.

While the wall isn’t your typical university climbing space (it was designed by the same company that has done some of the biggest, and best, climbing gyms in North America), it has a university vibe.

“Having started climbing, myself, in a university climbing wall, I want it to have a vibe of a university climbing wall. Community ... is first and foremost in those spaces,” said Kelly.

Currently, the Aviary has 25 routes with 10 more coming in the next week or two. Kelly hopes to see 40 to 50 routes by September. Don’t expect to get bored (ever) at the Aviary, the routes will change every few weeks.

Routes range from 5.6 to 5.13. In non-climber speak that translates to nice and gentle for beginners to finger tearing, toe squishing, torture routes to test the most radical of climbers. There are routes to keep everyone stoked.

The Aviary is the brainchild of a long running collaboration between the AMS and the VOC. It’s been in the works for years and the new SUB was designed with the wall in mind.

“It has a very unique role on campus.... We didn’t want something that was better than nothing, we wanted something that was really exciting,” said Kelly.

The space, which is entirely volunteer run and functions as a extended arm of the UBC’s Varsity Outdoors Club, is currently open 32 hours a week. But that’s going to change come September. As more volunteers are recruited to run the wall, teach newcomers and monitor safety, the Aviary hopes to be open all day, every day.

As long as you have a good understanding of belaying and some climbing experience, you can volunteer as a monitor at the wall.

The wall teaches first timers (and anyone who needs a refresher) how to set up, belay and climb on Tuesdays and Thursday at 5. The lessons are free and take about an hour.

“Community first.... We want to be open to people who are really serious about climbing, as a training facility, but also to people who have no idea what climbing even is."

And the space is sweet. Like really freakin’ sweet. Climb up a few metres and you get a panoramic view of the mountains and Gage Towers. The staff are great; they’ll take you from someone who doesn’t know what end of the rope to hold (either, it really doesn’t matter, it’s a rope) to being able to climb with a buddy in an hour. Already know how to climb? No worries, as of September the Aviary is going to be teaching lead climbing, tutorials and lessons, route setting clinics and technique courses. There will also be a team that trains together. And it’s all free with a membership. Excited yet?

“Early in the fall we are hoping to have a big, grand opening competition. Friendly format competition, nothing too serious. Just something to get everyone out."

The Aviary’s grand opening and the competition, may not be until September but you should check it out now, before everyone realizes how awesome it is. It’s amazing. Go climb after work, learn a bit and have an awesome time.

“There is no experience necessary, no any of that. It’s open to everyone,” said Kelly. “Everyone’s welcome. Students, non students, staff, all ages."

Check out The Aviary’s website for hours, info or contact details.

Koby Michaels is a club executive for the Varsity Outdoor Club.

Our intrepid sports and rec editor Koby Michaels working hard to get these shots.