Caltech Rock Gym
The Caltech Athletic Department runs a small bouldering gym (aka bouldering cave), located on the eastern-most side of Brown Gymnasium. The gym is not actively maintained by the Athletic Department, so most of the maintenance is done by the Alpine Club, using our funds and volunteer labor. Nonetheless, to use the gym you should sign in at the front desk, even if someone else has already gotten the key and opened the door. Visitors can use the gym by paying the usual $5 gym guest fee.
Anyone is welcome to set routes in the gym, but please use common sense, and do not interfere with other current routes.
This gym is primarily designed for experienced rock climbers who wish to train, and it is not a very beginner-friendly place, since there is never any instructor on-site. Everyone is welcome, but you should know enough about rock climbing to avoid injuring yourself. The closest such gym is the Arc in Arcadia, about 10 minutes drive. See our list of Indoor Rock Gyms as well.
In 2013 an MHF grant was approved for upgrades to the cave, which will include an artificial crack, new pads, a safety inspection, and electrical work, amongst other improvements. Look for a grand reopening in Fal 2013!
The front desk at Brown Gym has a collection of climbing shoes, and we encourage new climbers to take advantage of this resource. You can borrow these shoes for free, even over the weekend, just by showing your Caltech ID (for overnight rentals, you can instead sign the shoes out in a log instead of giving up your ID). In October 2012, we purchased 10+ pairs of brand new Five-Ten Coyote lace-up climbing shoes between sizes 8 to 12, including half-sizes and some women's sizes, though the shoes are really unisex. In September 2009, we have purchased 10 brand new velcro rental shoes from Evolv shoe company, sizes 4 to 13 in full size steps (men's sizes, but the shoes are unisex). These shoes are all clearly labeled in size.
Using the Gym
The system is simple, though unusual. There is no one "on duty" at the wall, and there are no set hours (though you can only use it when the main gym is open). Anyone may use the wall, regardless of experience - climb at your own risk!. Here are the gym's hours.
Go to the front desk at Brown Gym (not Braun) and ask for the key to the rock climbing wall and shoes if you need them. They have you sign a form and leave a student ID or athletic center card, and give you the key. Even if someone has already checked out the key, you should sign in, both so the gym can keep of track of things and so we get an accurate record of usage. With the key, walk to the East side of the building. The two sets of double doors are for the bouldering cave. The key works on the left door on the right pair of double doors. If you do not have a Caltech/Caltech affiliated ID card, you will be asked to abide by the regular Caltech Gyms guest policies (and thus pay $5 per visit).
In the gym, there is a light switch to the left of the main door. Please switch it off when you leave. There is also a surge protector in the northern corner; if you flip this on, you'll get some more lights. You're welcome to use the ipod-dock stereo (remove the panel in the center wall to get to it!)
The other set of double doors can be opened from the inside. Please close all doors when you leave, and turn off all lights and surge protectors. The main doors need to be pushed shut hard in order for the latch to catch.
In 2011 we added a set of Ice Holdz to the north wall. If you bring ice tools you can practice here! Obviously, this is at your own risk and you must be considerate of people trying to boulder.
Located on the east side of Braun Gym.
This is a bouldering gym only -- no roped climbing. No one is paid to maintain the gym, hence a sometimes shabby appearance, but the gym is pretty good for strength training. There are some marked routes; feel free to add your own. There are also some sequences of similar holds. There are two vertical concrete walls, a gently overhanging wood wall, and 30, 45 and 60 degree overhanging wood walls, as well as two ceilings.
The Alpine Club has maintained the gym. We'd be very happy to have volunteers help with maintenance. Send us a note at
alpine (see Email List if this doesn't make sense to you) if you can help, or if you have comments or suggestions. Some of the maintenance performed includes:
- Frequent (once in 3 months on average) route-setting parties (beginning May '10)
- Purchased new hex wrenches and ladders for routesetting
- Purchased tape for routesetting
- Taken down and cleaned the holds and walls (May '10)
- Cleaned all the crash pads (May '10)
- Added $400 worth of new Metolius holds (thanks to a Moore-Hufstedler grant)
- Put up about a dozen new problems
- Purchased two new box fans
- Purchased three new flourescent lights
- Replaced old light bulbs
- Spent about $300 to re-install Nicros H.I.T. strips in Aug '07
Many of the holds have yet to be replaced after the last cleaning. Feel free to add new holds and set your own routes, but please do not disturb the HIT setup on the 45 degree overhanging North wall of the South chamber.
Here are some pictures that show most of the walls.
The south room, looking North at the 45 degree system wall. The system wall (the one with the H.I.T. strips on it) is meant for training sequences of holds, and there are not many "fun" routes on it. You are welcome to set routes here, but please do not move or remove holds that are part of a sequence.