Cave Bouldering Gym opens in Kansas City, climbers rejoice

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rome wasn't built in a day, but a new bouldering gym in midtown Kansas City was constructed in just two months. And the mastermind behind it, Elsa Bleeker, said she couldn't have done it without an amazing group volunteers.

"Without the volunteers, this wouldn't have happened," she said. "It would have been me and this ugly, dirty space that I had."

Bleeker, a world traveler and adventure enthusiast, said she got bored last fall and decided to open The Cave Bouldering Gym -- underground. She and a team of volunteers turned one of Kansas City's caves into a jungle gym for thrill seekers.

"It's in a cave 150 - 200 feet underground," said Jesse Gross, lead designer. "At first it kind of gets to your head, but after you've been down here awhile you complete forget about it."

Like Bleeker, Gross is an avid climber, and when presented with the opportunity to assist in the construction, Gross didn't hesitate. He built a model and later designed the boulders. He and other volunteers drilled 9,000 holes to fit ever-changing hand and foot grips that spread across 4,000 square feet of climbing space. For climbers like Gross, it's like an adult playground.

"This is a climber's gym," he said. "It's not a big corporate gym."

What's more, Gross said it was built at a third of the cost that corporate gyms can cost -- and it's "just as well done."

"There's nothing else like this in the U.S. that I'm aware of," he said. "For one, the size of the boulders themselves -- the surface area that's available -- the steepness of the cave, the size of that boulder alone is pretty impressive -- and that it's underground."

Bleeker and her climbing crew said everyone is invited to The Cave Bouldering Gym -- even people who've never attempted to climb anything.

"Anybody who wants to learn to climb, the way to learn to climb is by climbing, so just get out here and start climbing," said Luke Hiller.

The Cave Bouldering Gym is located at 3150 Mercier Suite 641A in the Downtown Underground Caves, located off 31st Street in Kansas City, Mo. You can also find them on Facebook. They're open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 8 p.m. Visit their website for prices.


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