Climbing Academy Off Ground

By Jeff Bell – The Times Colonist

A sports academy dedicated to climbing has won support from Saanich school district trustees.

The academy will be centred at the Boulders Climbing Gym, which began as a small climbing area on an outside wall at Stelly’s Secondary School in 1995 and is now an established indoor facility 

Academies are wellestablished in all three local school districts, but tend to cover more mainstream pursuits such as hockey and soccer.

The academies are designed to give students an opportunity to spend extra time on a favourite sport while also meeting academic requirements.

Boulders Climbing Gym is unique. It is run by a nonprofit society, and has gained popularity not only at Stelly’s but also with community groups and other schools.

The gym received a $2-million infrastructure grant in 2009 for expansion, part of a round of grants funded by federal, provincial and local governments.


“One of the things that we look at in thinking about academies is ‘Is it something that’s not normally provided within our course offerings?’ ” said Saanich board of education chairwoman Helen Parker.

“It was a natural thing for the people at Stelly’s to develop a concept and come up with a program to bring to the board.”

Parker said Boulders has a dedicated following.

“Climbing has become something that is very popular with many, many children and youth in our district and in this region.”

The academy proposal prepared for the board said some students could go on to climb competitively, and pointed out that climbing has been looked at as a possible future Olympic sport.

The Stelly’s climbing academy will start in September with an anticipated enrolment of up to 26 students from grades 9 to 12. Ryan Braun, a physical education teacher and certified climbing-gym instructor, will lead the program 

The cost of the year-long academy will be $1,000 per student, in line with other academies in the capital region.

Saanich district policy dictates that no student will be excluded for financial reasons.

The program’s goals stress such things as teamwork and active living, and call on students “to strive for excellence on the wall, in the gym and in the classroom and be able to transfer these learned skills to other aspects of life.”

The Boulders Climbing Gym