The granite outcrops of Vedauwoo have lured climbers for decades, sitting just 20 miles east of Laramie and offering hundreds of routes for all abilities.
That’s little consolation on dark nights in February, when the sun sets at about 5:30 p.m., the temperature is firmly below freezing and a breeze pushes the cold deeper.
“I prefer outside climbing by a long shot, but Laramie winters are long, so you have to do something to stay focused,” said Davin Bagdonas, a long-time local climber and president of Source Bouldering Gym.
Bagdonas and four partners opened the gym about a year ago at 1379 N. Cedar St., offering a space for climbers to stay fit and hone their skills while they wait for warmer weather.
Bagdonas ran a similar operation in an upstairs unit of the Wagner Building in downtown Laramie for about five years before closing it in 2013 when he began graduate school at the University of Wyoming.
“We wanted to move it into this space originally,” he said.
When he finished school, the space was open, and the gym was reborn. This time, he’s hoping, multiple owners will ensure it stays open. They consulted with the Wyoming Small Business Development Center as they developed their business plan.
“This is something that Laramie has needed for a long time,” Bagdonas said.
Bouldering is a style of climbing done on smaller rock formations or closer to the ground. Climbers don’t use harnesses or ropes, but they do place thick pads on the ground for falls.
On a recent weekday evening, a half-dozen climbers gathered at the gym. Multicolored climbing holds dusted with white chalk dotted wooden walls coated with deck paint, which jutted toward the ceiling at a variety of angles. Padding a couple feet thick covered every bit of floor space beneath the walls.
In between climbs, Chris Murray said the walls and holds at Source Bouldering Gym are the best in town for serious climbers. Nearby, Ken Hilton spent the evening doing a series of laps on several different routes.
Climber Harry Bashaw, a student at Laramie County Community College, joined the gym a couple months ago after moving to Laramie from Oregon.
“When I heard about it, I had to sign up,” he said.
Bagdonas, who spent about eight years climbing around the world, leveraged industry connections to obtain materials at a discount. The floor, for example, was purchased through Organic Climbing, an equipment maker that used to be based in Laramie.
While the walls sported a series of routes placed for a recent competition, the gym’s normal setup features an “open setting,” with as many holds as possible on the walls. Then, climbers make their own routes. Bagdonas said such an approach is seen most commonly in bigger gyms in places like Europe and Japan.
“It builds community,” he said. “Everybody feeds off each other.”
He said the gym’s walls were built with multiple overhanging walls at various angles to challenge climbers and provide an environment for specialized training.
“We really embraced inside climbing as its own thing,” he said.
Source Bouldering Gym is currently open to members only. Memberships are $35 a month, $30 for students or $80 for families. A six-month membership is $175. Non-members can purchase a day pass if they come with a member.
Bagdonas said he’s planning to offer drop-in sessions in the future.