Summer-long remodel complete

BOZEMAN – Spire Climbing Center completed a four-month remodel project this fall, and is now open with resurfaced walls, a few structural re-designs, a new floor and a new paint job.

The idea was “to update the walls and revive the place a bit,” said Jeff Ho, who owns Spire jointly with Meg Hall.

The steep walls are about the same as before, structurally, Ho said, with small changes to features, namely softening the angles on some of the overhangs. They also added two cracks, more top ropes, and “just made things better.”

With winter the busiest season for the gym, the timing on the re-opening was right on: The day it opened, it snowed. This was the first remodel since the addition of the bouldering room in 2006, which stayed open all summer and has not changed.

Eight years after opening, Spire now has 18 employees, between its route setters, part time front desk staff and its youth program instructors. It offers myriad classes, and lessons for kids and adults.

Touch the Sky, the Gallatin Valley’s climbing team, is based there, and the gym also offers an array of kids programs.

“Basically, whatever you can think of, we will teach,” said Leigh Spokas, Spire’s Director of Instruction.

She lists them off: programs for preschoolers, home-schooled kids, and an after school session for climbers ages 5-18; an accredited college class with Montana Bible College; summer camps; private lessons; women’s clinics; and courses in self-rescue and falling.

Aside from the climbing gym at Montana State University, Spire is the Gallatin Valley’s only public indoor climbing facility. Stop by on a winter night, and there will be cars parked down the street.

Hall started the business in December 2004, and Ho came on a year and a half later. Before going into business together, the two knew each other in passing from the climbing community, and climbing on the limestone at Bozeman Pass.

Both soft-spoken and humble, they smile and shrug when asked if they like owning the gym. “What do you think?” Hall says. “Of course we like it.”

You’d never know it, but these longtime locals are also two of the most accomplished climbers in a town of big name crushers.

“It’s a great business,” Ho said. “I get to hang around climbers all day and talk climbing.” It can actually be hard to get any work done, he said.

Spokas, who’s originally from the Bitterroot, says she’s climbed in a lot of gyms around the country and this one is different.

“It’s kind of become the pillar of the climbing community here, which is unusual for a climbing gym.”