Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Couple combines community and climbing at Tuol Tom Poung gym




Couple combines community and climbing at Tuol Tom Poung gym

To see Seyha, one of the gym's two full-time trainers, scale up walls like a gecko is an amazing sight. Photo supplied
To see Seyha, one of the gym's two full-time trainers, scale up walls like a gecko is an amazing sight. Photo supplied

Couple combines community and climbing at Tuol Tom Poung gym

Rock climbing is often regarded as a solitary pursuit, but Christoph Lüthy, co-owner of Phnom Penh’s first fully fledged climbing gym, insists otherwise. Climbing, stresses the bespectacled Swiss-German, is all about teamwork. 

“We have a community here. It is more than just rock climbing,” he said at his new gym, to a back-drop of joyfully ascending human geckos.“It is a place where people meet, where people get to know one another,” he said.  

Phnom Penh Climb, located on a backstreet in the Russian Market neighbourhood, opened its doors four months ago, but incompletely. It had only its bouldering walls then (bouldering involves climbing lower walls without ropes).
 
It was not until February 20's official launch that the gym became fully functional, with the completion of its two top-rope walls. They are the focal point of the establishment, covered in dozens of routes, designated by brightly coloured tape strips, with quirky names like “Jacobs Ladder”, “Pinky and the Brain” and “The Ladybug”.

At nearly 10 metres tall, the walls are certainly imposing, and to see Seyha, one of the gym’s two full-time Khmer trainers, scale them in a matter of seconds is an amazing sight. 

Lüthy, an avid outdoorsman, opened the new gym with his American wife Mary, who he pins as the more serious climber of the pair. He describes their idea to start the gym as stemming from a need.

Phnom Penh Climb is filling a void, say married co-owners Christoph and Mary, who believe the capital's recreational residents were aching for a proper climbing gym to get high in. Photo supplied
Phnom Penh Climb is filling a void, say married co-owners Christoph and Mary, who believe the capital's recreational residents were aching for a proper climbing gym to get high in. Photo supplied

Besides the recently shuttered Jib bouldering gym, there were no official climbing outlets in Phnom Penh, he said, and climbing here had always required getting creative. 

Lüthy reminisced about a deserted, “ultra old” bouldering wall near the Olympic Stadium where he and other climbers used to get their fix. It was fine for a workout, he said, but the place had to be abandoned after it became overrun by squatters, who ended up using their crash pad as a bed. “The place became more of a bathroom,” Lüthy said. 

From start to finish, the making of Phnom Penh Climb took two years. The Lüthys had to have the place constructed from scratch and imported all of their climbing equipment from the US.

As neither had experience in running a business – both Lüthys work at the same Phnom Penh software marketing firm – there were plenty of bureaucratic and logistical bumps along the way. Often they improvised.

When testing the strength of the lead-anchors on their new top-rope walls – which European standards require to support nearly a tonne – they brought in an army jeep, to attach to the scale.

But the car wasn’t heavy enough, so they added 750 kilo's worth of barbell-weights from the nearby Amatak cross-fit gym. 

“But that still wasn’t even enough, so we had to sit on the hood to generate more weight,” said Lüthy. The team repeated the heavy exercise for all 90 or so lead-anchors.

Phnom Penh Climb is open to climbers of all ages. Photo supplied
Phnom Penh Climb is open to climbers of all ages. Photo supplied

“It’s been a very interesting journey,” quipped Lüthy after recounting the process. So far, business has been good. Lüthy reports that the Cambodian capital has taken kindly to the new spot. “There were climbers just waiting for a climbing gym to open,” said Lüthy of the warm reception.

But especially important in their clientele is the greater pool of people in Phnom Penh “seeking to do something recreational”, he adds. 

One of them was Jacob Brunning, a twenty-something Canadian on a five-month “climbing bender” in Southeast Asia. He had been volunteering at the gym, which he heard of through a friend, coaching newbies as well as setting up fresh climbing routes. Brunning agreed wholeheartedly with Lüthy’s all-for-one climbing philosophy.

“You need a community to progress,” he said cheerfully before running off to teach a lesson. “It’s the only way.”  

Phnom Penh Climb is located at #11B Street 29. It is open Tuesday to Friday from 4pm-9pm, and on weekends from 7am-11am in the morning and 3pm-8pm in the evening.

Monthly passes cost $35 and three-month passes cost $90. The price for daily entry is $5 and $1 to rent shoes and a harness. Introductory classes are offered on Tuesdays at 7pm.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from