Big dreams and sweet lines at Henderson’s Origin Climbing & Fitness

Andy Raether, one of the founders of Origin, hangs out.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Andy Raether looks lovingly at Squeezy, Banana, Rasputin and other nicknamed holds on the “woody wall” it took him two full weeks to jigsaw. There’s even a legit Derek Jeter game bat, split in action and now coated with chalk. “As random and crazy as it looks, there is very much a rhyme or reason to everything,” says Raether, a professional climber who shaped many of these bits of clay, polyurethane and wood before bolting them to a steeply angled wall inside his other masterpiece—Origin Climbing & Fitness.

Raether and co-founders Kim Lambert and John Wilder soft-opened their cavernous gym May 18, the veteran climbers cobbling together their wish lists to create what Wilder says is the largest bouldering facility in the country. He and Raether have set 382 problems on four boulder features (and promise the tally will pass 400), plus about 90 routes on a 30-foot rope wall, and they plan to change things up every eight weeks to start. There’s a lot going on, but it doesn't feel crowded.

Ah, steepness.

"We could have put in significantly more wall space, actually thousands of square feet more, but what it would have compromised is the feel,” Raether says.

Natural light to splashes of juicy color to architectural flow, Origin is designed to be a “social exercise experience” that keeps drawing you in. Walkways between the features are wide. Steeper walls mirror easier ones, so skill levels mingle under 20-foot fans keeping the air moving in the 22,600-square-foot space. Even the music is thoughtfully curated, from Dilated Peoples to Muse to holiday chestnuts by Elvis.

“Spacious, light, inviting—that’s what I hear from everybody. That’s what I love about it. That’s why we chose this space; that’s why we designed it the way we did,” Wilder says. “Andy and I spent the better part of probably 18 months talking about what we liked and didn’t like in facilities. We gave a great deal of thought to that, and then Kim and I spent another two months talking about how the walls should look and how the colors and the light and everything should come together.”

The woody wall.

The cohesion of the gym is also about the secondary attractions. In addition to a yoga studio and a fitness center with cardio and weights, there’s a training area with a Treadwall, campus boards and hangboards (for those one-finger pull-ups you’ve been meaning to try) and, of course, the woody wall and its 45-degree angle and choose-your-own-adventure grid of problems. Only Raether is allowed to write names on the holds, but he invites suggestions from members. He wants Origin to feel like their place, like something the community can build on.

“It’s got a really vibrant, cool community of climbers,” he says of Las Vegas, where he’s lived since 2010. The draw of the world-class rock at Red Rock Canyon means not only that the sport is healthy here, but also that Raether can entice pro friends to pop by the gym for demos (he mentions Daniel Woods and Nalle Hukkataival). His own expertise is available to anyone climbing at Origin on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he trains, and formal instruction ranges from summer camp for kids to a core climbing package.

The 30-foot wall has auto-belays and a nice range of difficulty.

Wilder, who grew up here and has climbed enough in Red Rock for friends to call him a “walking guidebook,” says Origin will be a rainy-day backup for the annual Red Rock Rendezvous. And he's working on partnerships that would make it a center for outdoor-skill certifications and home for a competition team. He points out his favorite wall, musing on the fact that eight years ago he almost opened a climbing gym a few doors down. Henderson still feels like the right place. Raether, who has put up climbs all over the world, agrees.

“There’s an opportunity to add and build something positive.”

Origin’s grand opening on June 20 offers a daylong introduction to the gym, with a kids’ climb, clinics on everything from belay basics to self-rescue, a yoga class, gear raffles, a party scene with beer, food and tunes, and quality time with pro athletes ranging from bouldering champion Alex Johnson to New Zealand powerhouse Mayan Smith-Gobat to the legendary John Long. For those bringing skills to the festivities, there will be a feats-of-strength challenge and a citizen’s competition climb. Are your fingers ready?

Origin Climbing & Fitness Grand Opening June 20, noon-midnight, $17 (members free). 7585 Commercial Way #J, 702-570-7034.

Tags: Sports, Culture
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