Climb Your Way To The Top At Memphis Rox In South Memphis
Ed. Note: Blog contributor Austin Crowder reports from South Memphis with this story about Memphis Rox, one of Memphis’ new rock climbing gyms. Plus, he’s got the scoop on plenty of other new developments in the neighborhood.
Onlookers shout to me, “You can do it! Don’t give up!” as they witness me hanging 45ft in the air stretching my arm through exhaustion to clench the top of the cliff I’ve found myself dangling on.
Where am I? How did I get here? A flight to Denver?
Nope, I actually just crossed the street from STAX Museum of American Soul Music and The Soulsville Charter School on my lunch break.
I did not expect the perk of rock climbing with my students and colleagues on a regular basis when choosing to be a teacher in South Memphis. But, that’s Memphis. That’s Memphis Rox, the largest non-profit rock climbing gym in the United States. And let me tell you, this gym has epic climbing, but an even more epic vision of community and opportunities for all.
Impacting Memphis by removing economic barriers to opportunities for health runs in the blood of Tom Shadyac, the film director turned founder of Memphis Rox. Tom’s Father helped Danny Thomas start St. Jude and his brother is the CEO of ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising arm. So, it’s fitting that, like St. Jude, Memphis Rox will turn no one away — regardless of ability to pay.
The vision of Memphis Rox is to create a community of inclusion by fostering relationships across cultural, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. And to do this they are re-inventing the idea of currency by accepting volunteerism as payment.
I regularly witness this vision in action as my students from the Soulsville neighborhood fill the gym after school to climb alongside of, belay, encourage, and sometimes give some climbing pointers to fellow Memphians from throughout Shelby County. Climbing humbles all–the shared challenge of it can quite literally bring together strangers as if their lives depended on it.
As for the climbing:
Memphis Rox boasts a truly impressive scope of bouldering and top roping routes. Routes are regularly changed so you always have fresh climbs. The gym is high caliber, having already hosted showcases and competitions led by professional climbers, but is also well equipped for the total beginner of any age.
The bouldering area has an astounding diversity of climbs that are 15 ft in height. These routes, capable of being climbed up and over without a rope, are well marked and graded for difficulty. This well padded region has climbs for the total beginner all the way to the professional climber.
The top roping section delivers a thrill with many 45 ft (!!!) climbing walls to choose from. This portion of the gym includes a region dedicated to teaching beginners and one for advanced climbers interested in lead climbing.
Memphis Rox, staying true to its values, truly has a place for everyone to climb. It helps that the community here is friendly, helpful, and accepting.
Climbing Classes Offered:
Techniques for Bouldering
Top Rope Climbing
Lead Rope Climbing (advanced)
Youth Rock Climbing Team
Health, Fitness, and Training Options
Memphis Rox offers a fully stocked training gym with free weights, aerobic machines, group exercise rooms, and climbing specific training gear.
Additionally, the in house Juice Almighty cafe offers a hang out spot equipped with smoothies, juices, wraps, melts, salads, fruit, and veggies. The food is fresh and includes organic and vegan options. Like the gym, Juice Almighty offers suggested pricing to ensure that economic barriers exclude no one from its healthy food options.
Fitness Classes Offered:
Location: 879 E McLemore Ave, Memphis, TN
Sunday: noon – 8 p.m.
Monday through Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Paying is an option and no one is turned away. But below is suggested pricing for those who are able.
Individual – $12
Youth – $10
Student – $10
Family (3) – $100 $15 for each additional member
Couple – $85
Individual – $55
Student – $25
Youth – $20
Five volunteers hours a month. Currently it’s just volunteering at the gym, but there are plans to expand that to more non-profits in the city.
I recommend completing one online here to avoid doing so in the lobby.
Climbing shoes and harnesses are available to rent for free at Memphis Rox (but with the new REI in Memphis you may not be able to resist getting your own).
Plan to climb in comfortable athletic clothes (personally I prefer athletic pants because the grippy climbing holds can be a bit scratchy). There are also changing rooms and free lockers available.
Parking is free and available on site.
Big Things Happening in Soulsville
The Memphis Rox climbing gym is an exciting addition to the Soulsville Neighborhood. It adds a new element to the treasures already in the neighborhood including LeMoyne-Owen College, The Soulsville Charter School, Stax Music Academy, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis Slim Collaboratory, South Memphis Farmers Market, Aretha Franklin’s birth home, and many more.
Shadyac plans to keep the exciting additions to the Soulsville neighborhood coming. One Family Memphis, an organization chaired by Shadyac, is currently doing fundraising and development for Memphis Rox, an inclusive film studio named Memphis Mountain Top Media, an after school program, and a pay what you can restaurant.
So, come on by Soulsville USA soon for some fun exercise, fresh food, and to experience the SOUL that infuses this community. Engage with Soulsville’s powerful past, experience its remarkable present, and contribute to its exciting future. You won’t regret it!
To stay in touch with Memphis Rox
About The Author
Austin was raised in the Los Angeles area but found his home (and his Memphian wife) here in Memphis, Tennessee. He teaches high school government and economics in South Memphis. He contributes to the Commercial Appeal, SB Nation, and I Love Memphis. But everyone in the rec basketball league knows his true passion and calling is to grow a few more inches to become an NBA player for the Memphis Grizzlies. Follow him on Twitter @acrowder73.