FLAT-EARTHY INDIANA may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of climbing. But would it be if you could drink, eat, work, and socialize in addition to getting a vertical workout all in one spot? That’s what the brand-new North Mass Boulder is trying to do—combine community and movement in its new behemoth gym near the northeast end of Mass Ave.
At its heart, the 55,000-square-foot space is a bouldering gym occupying about half of the sprawling territory. Bouldering is the only style of climbing offered, meaning no ropes or harnesses, just shoes, a bit of chalk, and safety mats beneath you. The lack of equipment and generally shorter wall heights differentiate the trendy activity from rock-climbing, and its social, puzzle-solving nature promotes working with peers (friends and strangers alike) to figure out a “boulder problem,” essentially a route to reach the top. The resulting communal atmosphere is part of what has made bouldering gyms pop up across the country in recent years—and what North Mass’s owners wanted to bring to Indy.
The exercise can be somewhat intense as climbers must use muscles all over their body, including their brain, to try to solve the boulder problems, which is why it’s such a good workout. But co-owner Elliott Steward says that around 80 percent of people who have visited North Mass had never touched a rock wall before. And some visitors never will. While climbing is the main attraction, North Mass also dedicates significant square footage to a yoga studio, fitness classes, weightlifting, and cardio equipment. Steward notes that dedicated yoga studios can sometimes charge over $100 per month for that sole form of exercise. You can try everything at NWB with an $18 day pass or a monthly membership starting at $75.
The health-focused cafe with açaí bowls and smoothies, a bar with 14 taps, vast social lounges and work areas, a spacious courtyard, and the bright, multicolored environment that add to the energized ambience are what really set this place apart from other bouldering gyms. If you’re ready to climb right in, try one of the introductory bouldering classes—or just grab a beer and watch others top out. Either is cool at North Mass.