desert rocks

Cool Climbing Haven

When the temps rise, Desert Rocks offers climbers a cool place to learn the ropes or hone their climbing skills.

Julie Pendray Attractions

desert rocks
A climber navigates the indoor climbing gym at Desert Rocks in Palm Springs.
PHOTOS BY NEIL HUSVAR

The rush can be addictive: The adrenaline of uncertainty. The triumph of success. Will you reach the next handhold? Can you make it to the top?

It’s a long way down. The sun is blazing. Your hands are sweating. The fear, excitement, and total-body workout challenge every bit of trust in yourself, your gear, and your partner. Scaling to success or rappelling down safely sheds self-doubt and makes you feel like you can take on the world.

The desert heat makes it difficult to climb year-round, but that’s why Steve and Kristen Schechtman of Riverside opened Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym in North Palm Springs two years ago. A former builder, Steve is a lifelong athlete and mountaineer who ranked as an All-American gymnast in high school and college. He has climbed Mt. Rainier in Washington and, these days, is a regular on the rocks in Joshua Tree National Park. His wife, previously an educator, is an avid hiker with a background in fitness and ballet.

“We felt like this area was sorely lacking in a physical activity that people could persist in because the weather is so warm,” says Steve. The national park’s climbing season runs October through May, when the rising temperatures begin to intimidate the faint of heart. As general contractor for the gym, Steve made 10,000 foam blocks to counter the heat.

Now in their 50s, the Schechtmans established their indoor climbing haven in a 7,000-square-foot space with 30-foot-high walls, where everyone from seasoned mountain climbers to young children can stretch and strengthen, pit their minds against competition “puzzles,” and make new friends who can take them to the next level. So far, people age 3 to 75 have come to enjoy the only rock climbing gym in the desert, Steve says.

Noting the desert’s international draw, he mentions the alpine climbers from Europe and Canada who have spent time at the facility to maintain activity while visiting town. “One group of Canadian hikers — average age 70 — came in to work on improving their balance for scrambling uneven rocks.”

Desert Rocks is a destination for those seeking a serious fitness routine, team-bonding exercises, and multilevel classes, but it’s also a place to let the family loose for summer camp or special-occasion parties.

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There is 7,000 square feet of space with walls 30 feet high.

Now in their 50s, the Schechtmans established their indoor climbing haven in a 7,000-square-foot space with 30-foot-high walls, where everyone from seasoned mountain climbers to young children can stretch and strengthen, pit their minds against competition “puzzles,” and make new friends who can take them to the next level. So far, people age 3 to 75 have come to enjoy the only rock climbing gym in the desert, Steve says.

Noting the desert’s international draw, he mentions the alpine climbers from Europe and Canada who have spent time at the facility to maintain activity while visiting town. “One group of Canadian hikers — average age 70 — came in to work on improving their balance for scrambling uneven rocks.”

Desert Rocks is a destination for those seeking a serious fitness routine, team-bonding exercises, and multilevel classes, but it’s also a place to let the family loose for summer camp or special-occasion parties. “It’s natural for kids to climb. We’re not far removed from our lineage of swinging from trees,” he says. “I walked into a climbing gym with my kids 15 years ago and realized it was something I could do with the whole family. We started in the gym, and then we took it outside. We would climb regularly at Joshua Tree, so as young kids they would learn about geology, ecology, and stewardship.”

The gym is open at night too, so climbers can go to Joshua Tree during the early morning hours when it’s cool, then come back to train indoors, Steve says.

Kristen enjoys working with beginners and children. She and Steve occasionally offer free passes to local teachers to use as rewards for student achievement or, in the case of at-risk kids, to encourage a positive outlet. The Schechtmans also work with the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and United Cerebral Palsy. “Self-esteem is so important for growth,” says Steve.

Climbing isn’t just a physical pursuit. “It’s very much about problem solving and it’s puzzle related,” he notes. “After an hour or two, you’re not thinking about the climbing, you’re thinking about how to reach a new climbing route. It’s much more about accomplishing a climbing goal rather than who is the most muscle-built.”

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Summer camps will be held the last two weeks in July and the first week in August. The registration deadline is one week prior to camp.

Desert Rocks, 19160 McLane St, Palm Springs. 760-671-1101; climbdesertrocks.com

Cool Climbing Haven was last modified: July 5th, 2017 by Julie Pendray