New kind of climbing gym shaped by pandemic focuses on community – Spectrum News 1

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SAN DIEGO — Climbing has always been an escape for Jordan Romig, a former international rock-climbing competitor who just opened his own climbing gym in San Diego.
Asylum is the only 100% outdoor bouldering gym in San Diego County. Bouldering is a style of climbing that’s done on shorter routes without ropes or harnesses. The pandemic shaped his vision for Asylum.
“I wanted to make it a little smaller, lower-risk, because no one really knew what was going to be going on. We didn’t know if things were going to open,” Romig said. “We wanted to make it all outdoors so people didn’t have to worry about getting sick, wearing masks and you could just kind of be more free and still have a space where you can come and be around people and have community and exercise.”
Asylum is tucked away by the 5 Freeway near Sherman Heights. Romig chose this location because he wanted to bring climbing to one of the more underserved areas in San Diego.
His memberships are the cheapest of all the climbing gyms in the city, a deliberate choice to make his gym accessible to everyone.
“[Climbing] changed my life and I want to be able to provide that to other people,” he said.
Liv Martinez lives near Asylum and says their community-focused style fits in well with the area’s proud Hispanic roots.
“Those of us who are immigrants who feel like we don’t quite fit in, in this area there’s so much acceptance,” Martinez said. “There’s a real sense of that family in this area.”
She believes the welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere is a huge draw for people living in their neighborhood who historically have not had easy access to healthy options.
“Nothing that’s focused on community gatherings or anything like beneficial for your health, for physical activity, there’s a lack of parks in the area, so having something like this is just phenomenal,” Martinez said. “Whether you come alone or you come with a group, you’re going to find people that you can hang out with and chat with.”
Romig chose the name Asylum as a reminder that his gym can be a refuge for anyone who needs it, connecting communities through climbing.
“Definitely above all, just like a safe place to express yourself and have a home, but also you can be a little bit crazy,” he said.
Asylum also has live music and food trucks, as well as workout and working spaces, and an area to bring dogs. Romig resets all the routes about every two weeks, so there are always new challenges to try.


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