Uniting Canada's Largest Climbing Community

Up The Bloc – Mississauga's New Premier Bouldering Facility

Up The Bloc is one of a number of new climbing facilities opening in Southern Ontario in 2017. We caught up with owner Luigi Montilla (of Friction Climbing and the Tour de Bloc fame) and discussed bouldering circuits, shaping the future of the sport and his envy of Jean-Marc de la Plante's beard.
Up The Bloc
This is not your first business in the climbing industry. Care to share your other climbing-oriented projects?
Up The Bloc: 17 years ago I created a little company called Friction. We got our start by making holds for the local Toronto gyms and it slowly grew from there. It was great time to be part of the burgeoning climbing scene and I couldn’t wait to get more involved. Through Friction, I started sponsoring competitions and some athletes but I always thought that I could do a little more...hence the Tour de Bloc.

The TdB was born out of a desire to make a difference. We wanted to provide gyms with support so that they could concentrate on hosting bigger and better comps. This also led to standardized rules/formats and became a vehicle to unify all the amazing events that were happening across the country. The TdB is now in its 14th season and still going strong!

With the 10-year anniversary of the Tour looming we wanted to organize something big. The question then became “How big?” Why not organize an IFSC Bouldering World Cup and bring the best competitive climbers in the world to Canada? Perfect! Boudering Canada took the reins from the TdB and with the support of the climbing community, gyms and sponsors we were able to organize three successful World Cups in the process.

The location of Up The Bloc in Mississauga.

Your business partner, Jean-Marc de la Plante, also has some experience in the climbing industry. Details, please.
Up The Bloc: JM has definitely built a great reputation within the industry with the success of his facilities - Allez Up, Seven Bays, and BoulderHouse. He’s a great resource and is normally open to talking to anyone that needs advice on a project.
Why did you choose to partner with Jean-Marc de la Plante?
Up The Bloc: He has a pretty sexy five o’clock shadow. I’ve been follically challenged my entire life and he seems to be able to grow a beard effortlessly which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Other than that, we’ve known each other for over 15 years, we share a similar passion for all things climbing and we’re passionate about pushing the sport forward.
Up the Bloc

Up The Bloc

So what motivated you to open a climbing gym?
Up The Bloc: It seemed like the natural progression for me. I was looking for a new challenge and the timing was right. Organizing the IFSC World Cup was a logistical and financial challenge and it made me realize that I could’ve opened a couple of bouldering gyms in that time period. More importantly and like my other climbing endeavours, the gym is another opportunity to help shape the sport.
Can you describe the facility (height, wall angles, area)?
Up The Bloc: The gym is an 11,000 square foot bouldering playground. We have 5,000 square feet of climbing terrain split between two 100+ foot long walls (the Comp Wall and the Session Wall) that are 15 feet high with various angles.
Up The Bloc

Luigi Montilla inspecting the new climbing surface at Up The Bloc

Every climbing gym opening has a few horror stories. Care to share some of yours?
Up The Bloc: This bouldering gym has been nothing but PROBLEMS! It’s been a long process for sure and we’ve encountered our share of challenges but in the grand scheme of things I think we’ve been lucky so far.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, how about sharing with us your most pleasant surprise during this project?
Up The Bloc: I’m not sure how many people know this but we’re actually located in the same complex as Summit, Mississauga’s first climbing gym that closed down almost 20 years ago. Some might have taken that tidbit of information as bad juju and passed on the property but we took it as a good sign and a unique opportunity to bring climbing back to the city in the same place where it all started.
Up The Bloc

Up The Bloc

What do you think Up the Bloc will bring to the table to help it to stand out from other climbing gyms?
Up The Bloc: Four words - finely crafted bouldering circuits. Each circuit contains 10-15 problems and is designed to expose climbers to different styles. We will encourage climbers to focus on acquiring skills and not get hung up on grades.
Up The Bloc

Up The Bloc

Many climbing gyms today offer courses or complementary activities. Do you folks have anything planned along these lines?
Up The Bloc: We plan on providing technique, strength, and mobility classes plus nutrition seminars. We’re also starting a barbell club!
Up The Bloc

Up The Bloc

Who do you see as being the typical Up the Bloc customer?
Up The Bloc: We want strong climbers to feel that Up the Bloc is a place where they can push their limits. That being said, every climber has had a first climbing day at some point, and we know that the quality of that first day can be the single biggest deciding factor in a climber’s career. Our motto is that you can’t cultivate great top end climbers if you don’t treat your first timers like they are already part of the family. So it doesn’t matter to us how good or new you are, we want to make you love bouldering as much as we do, and we’re going to work to make that happen.
Up The Bloc

Up The Bloc

And finally, when do you expect the gym to open?
Up The Bloc: Early February, 2017!
More details about Up The Bloc including operating hours and pricing are available at http://www.upthebloc.com/
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Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 35 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid-80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.