What began as a series of conversations among a group of friends and passionate climbers more than five years ago is now a thriving place of community for the curious and those passionate about climbing. It’s a place for novice, learning and experienced climbers to gather, learn, build skills, inspire each other, train, compete and have fun. The center’s name is a reference to the climbing movement (high-step) with a nod to the unique shrub-steppe landscape that surrounds much of the climbing terrain around the Yakima Valley. On 7,500 square feet of climbing surface, they offer lead climbing, auto-belay, bouldering and more, along with a wide range of courses, workshops from beginning to expert, fun competitions, a competitive climbing team and kids and ladies events. Regulars and visitors are always welcome!
Nathan Joyner – High Steppe Climbing Center
Rather than a standard climbing gym, you’ve said you wanted to create something different, a community around all things climbing. How has that vision come to life?
Community is the focus and the driving force behind everything that is happening at High Steppe. Climbing can be a very social activity, and we lean into that concept. Anyone who spends time at High Steppe will quickly see that people engage and interact with one another while climbing. The climbing gym is a great place to spend time with friends and to make new ones. Talking about climbing is a great ice-breaker.
From simply having fun to serious training and competition, how have you created such a good balance for all levels in the climbing community?
We do work hard to accommodate the spectrum of beginner-to-advanced climbers, and this largely comes down to the routes we offer. For those who may not know, the holds are arranged in courses, called routes, which are changed on a regular basis. We make sure to always have routes that a first-time visitor with no climbing experience can enjoy as well as routes that will challenge an advanced climber.
Often, an advanced level route will be situated right next to a beginner route, so everyone is climbing together and interreacting with one another, even if they are climbing at different levels. Its not like we have all the hard routes over here, and the beginner ones over there – everyone climbs together and shares the space. This mingling means more socializing, and more opportunity to learn from the climber next to you.
You’ve created a variety of experiences, activities and learning opportunities for kids and youth. Has this been an important part of your mission?
Kids are a big part of our mission. We know that families in the valley need fun, indoor activities, so it makes sense that we would offer kids classes. Above and beyond that, climbing is such a good activity for youngsters to learn life skills, including perseverance, self-reliance, stress-management, problem solving, grit, and the list goes on!
Climbing at an early age can lead to a lifelong enjoyment of physical activity – something that can be tremendously important for our physical and mental health. We strive to give all of our young participants the chance to discover this enjoyment for themselves.
What do you love about the climbing terrain and routes around the Yakima Valley?
There is so much to love about the local outdoor climbing! Easy access is one thing – the closest rock is just 25 minutes from town. Also, there is a lot of climbing along Highway 12. Hundreds of routes at a dozen separate cliffs line the road from Naches to White Pass. Plus, there is a variety of types of climbing, from very easy to advanced. Another thing about the climbing near Yakima is the quality. The climbing is so good folks regularly travel from the west side of the state to climb here.
Lastly, the Tieton River Valley is a beautiful place. Whether you are climbing or hiking or trail running, the Tieton is such a special place that we have right here in our backyard. I am so thankful that we have access to this resource.