In a way Jean-Marc de la Plante’s childhood neighbour is to thank for Seven Bays Bouldering (2019 Gottingen Street). That’s who first dragged him to a climbing gym at 16, spawning a passion for the sport that took him from daily climber to employee, to eventually convincing his family to take over the business with him. After 12 years of success at Montreal’s Allez Up, the Richer-de la Plante family has spread their climbing expertise to Halifax, turning a former garage into a Halifax first—a bouldering gym and licensed cafe/restaurant. Seven Bays invites you to ascend upon its soft opening this Friday, May 15, from 3-11pm. Watch for its attached cafe in the next couple of weeks.
1. “It’s that kind of business. It’s very much about the people, and the little things you do are important,” says de la Plante of the team effort that it took to create Seven Bays. He brought some local climbing enthusiasts (like general manager Hana Ogasawara) into the mix, and transplanted some of the Allez Up crew to plan, design, build, set and test routes and ready the space for customers. “I pick and choose the people I work with because ultimately I love what I’m doing, and I want to continue loving it.”
2. De la Plante refers to climbing routes as “the fruit at the fruit stand,” which is why much hands-on work, and creativity— led by 20-year climbing vet and route-setting authority Tonde Katiyo, with fellow setters Shawn Smith, Brendan Konowal and Paul Denzler —has gone into planning them. But the fun doesn’t stop on opening day. These courses will be changed on a weekly basis, whether that means re-routing or using pieces to completely re-shape the wall. “Their thing is to create moves that when you do it, it’s like ‘Oh my god, that was so cool,’” says de la Plante.
3. There’s room for about 11 people to be on the wall at once, and 50-plus in the gym. “It’d feel tight, kind of like a party, but that’s bouldering,” says de la Plante. Though technically a solo sport, it’s a social style of climbing, hence why pairing the facilities with a place to eat, drink and hang makes sense. “I’m a climber at heart and I believe it’s the most important thing, but I’m starting to realize it’s less about the climbing and more about everything that happens when you’re not climbing. That’s what really makes the business jive, and makes people want to come back.”