/ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 /
Jackie Lewis on the sport climbing route in "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.
Manchester's sole rock climbing gym, Vertical Dreams, has become somewhat of a staple novelty for the city and a haven for rock climbers looking for a respite during the doldrums of the cold season. While keeping a clean gym, regularly refreshed routes and a friendly and knowledgable staff have all been pivotal to the gym's continued success, a certain fraction of that success can contributed to Vertical Dreams' most unique feature, a 70 foot elevator-like shaft that has been remodeled into one of the tallest indoor climbing walls on the east coast.

A view of "The Shaft" directly from above by Manchester Oblique.

Jackie Lewis in the "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Housed in the recently renovated Waumbec Mill on at 250 Commercial Street, Vertical Dreams' sits atop the fourth floor with the shaft extending down to the second floor. Access to the shaft is gained second floor, or if you're willing to suit up and repel, the forth floor, as well. It's kind of an interesting dynamic owning a business with such a unique form of vertical space, professionals and passersby wandering the mills hallways may hear a sudden "CLUNK" through building's brick walls as some climber takes a 10 foot whipper at the crux of a route.

When Vertical Dreams owner, Corey Hebert, was prospecting places for his business, he found the shaft by accident:

When I was first looking at the space to start the gym, I did not know about the "shaft" but after drawing a floor plan, I realized that there was some more space behind a wall. I got permission to do some exploring and to my surprise I found that there was more than a little space. This sealed the deal for me. We had to demo a lot of stuff to make it safe and climbable but it was worth it.
 Despite the common moniker of "elevator shaft", the original purpose of the shaft is not well known and I have only come across skimpy anecdotal evidence suggesting that it was ever an elevator shaft. Another story I came across was that the shaft housed a large vat for dye production during the mill's textile days and that when the mill was being renovated, a gentleman removed that vat for nothing more than the scrap metal value, which was considerable. This story seems to make a little more sense to me as large amounts of dye may have been noxious to work around and required a more direct route of ventilation, in this case, a shaft straight to the roof of the building.

Members of the Vertical Dreams Tuesday/Thursday Night Crew climbing "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Jackie Lewis on the sport climbing route in "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.

Now climbers ascend the shaft daily on walls of pocked with synthetic climbing holds and boyscouts regularly descend the shaft by repelling from the top in search of a merit badge. What was once a very utilitarian space is now a place where memories are made as fears are conquered, clinging to plastic rocks with almost four stories of open space below you.

NOTE: Thanks to the Vertical Dreams "Tuesday/Thursday night crew" for allowing me to snap a few photos of them.

Another member of the Vertical Dreams Tuesday/Thursday Night Crew climbing "The Shaft" by Manchester Oblique.


Anonymous on: February 6, 2014 at 8:23 AM said...

Thanks for the post. The gym looks like it is a pretty decent size. Are there any other gyms in Manchester, NH? Comparing the rates is nice to be able to do before getting a membership.

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