A new climbing gym opening soon in Bend will offer unique route-setting and wide-open business hours.
Hooked on rock climbing since she was 5, new Bend business owner Lilian Kral has been setting a unique route for herself ever since. Growing up in Portland, Kral got her first taste of climbing at Central Oregon's Smith Rock. From there, she was on youth teams, her university team and has now been a professional route setter for 10 years. Alongside her career in the climbing industry, she danced through university, which allowed her to pay off college, take trips abroad and open her own climbing gym in Bend.
Boardworks, her new venture, will be the first bouldering gym in the state to offer members 24/7 access. In this new model of a climbing gym, adjustable climbing boards can be moved from vertical to 70 degrees overhanging. Climbers are able to connect via Bluetooth to the walls to set boulder problems and adjust the angle of the boards. They can choose a route (called a problem in bouldering) pre-set by professionals or set their own, and the path will light up on the wall. The walls are fully adjustable, giving access to all skill levels. Climbers who choose to set their own routes can share them with their friends.
Kral's journey to owning a climbing business started early in life, as her childhood influenced her to pursue a career in the climbing industry. Her family didn't have a lot of money growing up.
"My dad opened his own forestry business when I was a kid, and so my siblings and I were his first employees. We would work five hours a day, Monday through Friday, in the summer. We earned spending money and helped pay for our own activities," she said. For Kral, the activity was climbing.
In one way or another, Kral has been working on gym projects for the last few years but wanted to introduce something innovative to the market.
"It's like your home gym away from home," said Kral.
She plans to have comfy couches and board games and is on the hunt for a Nintendo 64. As an artist, she also plans to showcase members' artwork.
"In my mind, if maybe I'm not climbing as strong as I have in the past, then I'm sending this gym project, and that's pretty hard."—Lilian Kral
Boardworks is intended for all levels and for anyone who is looking to get better. Kral is partnering with a team of supportive professionals to create a positive environment for fun and improvement. Having struggled with a long history of eating disorders, Kral said, "I don't want this to become a space that is negative in any way where you become obsessed with training or take things too far. We can connect our gym family with a supportive network of professionals, including physical therapists, nutritionists and climbing coaches."
As an athlete, Kral has gone through many phases of strength. "When you've achieved a certain level of fitness, and you really excel and then you go back and you're not there, that can be a shock to the system that you have to get over before you can move on. One of the amazing mental practices that climbing allows you is this, like, ego check."
As an entrepreneur starting a new climbing business, she finds herself challenged in new ways.
"In my mind, if maybe I'm not climbing as strong as I have in the past, then I'm sending this gym project, and that's pretty hard," said Kral.
Boardworks is projected to open on Jan. 1, 2023. Memberships are on sale now at boardworksclimbing.com. Facility tours are also available from 4 to 6pm Saturday and Sunday for the first three weekends in December.