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Rock climbers and Ninja warriors scale new heights at Aspire


Aspire Climbing in Vaughan is one of the largest in Ontario and offers a wide variety of climbing options.

By Karen Bliss

Are you ready to rock? Whether you’re a wanna-be Spider-Man or Alex Honnold (note: check out the documentary Free Solo), the perfectly named Aspire Climbing in Vaughan has programs and activities for any level and any age.

“Our gym is one of the largest in Ontario, we offer a wide variety of climbing, whether you like slab climbing, steep climbing, or autobelay climbing, there is something for you,” manager Michelle Vanderheide says of the 20,000 sq.ft. facility with more than 7000 sq. ft of climbing surface.

Offering what they call a “unique blend of indoor rock climbing and ninja warrior under one roof,” Aspire offers camps for kids, night passes for students, memberships, and drop-ins.

“Our staff and members are welcoming and friendly, and we are proud of the positive space we have created,” says Vanderheide. “Whether you are new to the gym or a long-time member, the community will always cheer you on and encourage you to do your best.”

General prices are $26 for adults, $22 for students/seniors. Families are $20 per person (3 or more). And Friday’s student night pass is $18 (with valid student ID). Rental gear is not included. Climbing shoes are $5; harness, $5; chalk bag, $5; and a bundle of all three, $12.

Climbing involves agility, balance, coordination, determination, creativity and problem-solving. Do not expect to leap in a single bound, but what is “ninja” exactly? Well, as seen on TV, it’s jumping, climbing, running, swinging, balance and coordination. No costume required. The course is “aluminum with interchangeable swinging elements just like the TV show, American Ninja Warrior,” it reads on the web site.“We are one of the few climbing gyms in Ontario that also offers ninja warrior,” says Vanderheide. “The course gets reset bi-weekly so there will always be fresh obstacles on the course. We are also one of the only gyms in Ontario with a kilter board, one of the best adjustable systems boards for climbing.”

The bouldering “problems,” as Aspire refers to them, are up to 16 ft. high featuring 70 degree overhangs, slab, and “everything in between.” The boulder section has two massive islands and a wall, “each with their own unique angles and challenges ranging from easy to extreme,” plus five 23-foot “auto belay stations.” (A belay is a spike of rock or other hard material used for belaying, according to the Oxford dictionary)

“Our biggest boulder will have you climbing 27 feet from start to finish with multiple angle changes,” it states on the web site. “Our team sets new boulders weekly, so there will always be a new challenge when you come in. Our space also features a ninja-warrior obstacle course that is updated with new elements regularly to keep the obstacles fresh.”

While walk-ins are welcome, booking ahead of time is recommended just to speed up the check-in process and get you climbing and ninja-ing in no time. If you love it, a 10-visit pass is $210 for adults; $180 for students/seniors. There is also a discount for members of other climbing gyms.

Registration is also now open for fall youth and adult climbing and ninja programs. “These programs are for beginner and intermediate climbers and ninjas looking to advance their skills,” says Vanderheide. “We also have an exciting event starting in September called Boulder League. This is a team based climbing competition between three climbing gyms: Top Rock, True North Climbing and Aspire Climbing Vaughan.”

Of note, and understandably, all visitors must sign a waiver.


Karen Bliss is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Billboard, Rolling Stone, Pollstar and others. She has interviewed thousands of musicians, including Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Eminem, Shania Twain, Metallica and Michael Bublé.

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