Located in the historic Oregon District of downtown Dayton is the Urban Krag. Formerly a church, this one-time condemned building has been refurbished and repurposed to serve as an excellent climbing gym. Climbers now pull on plastic underneath stained glass windows, and routes go from what used to be the basement all the way to the apex of the building. I have many fond memories of the Urban Krag, since I learned to climb and forged many lasting friendships there. I may be biased, but the Urban Krag is a great place to learn how to climb.
The Urban Krag is one of the finest route gyms I have ever been in. The Krag is taller than most rock climbing gyms, with routes going all the way to the top of the former church – 56 vertical feet from the ground. With the overhanging nature of some of the routes, a climber can climb continuously for nearly 80 feet, which is a rarity when climbing indoors. The ability to have long, overhanging routes makes the Urban Krag an excellent training area for the Red River Gorge, which is the nearest world-class outdoor climbing area at about three hours away.
The long routes make the Krag an excellent place to prepare for climbing outdoors at the Red, but they are not the only feature that makes this climbing gym such a wonderful place to learn how to climb. Another great thing about this gym is the cracks. Yes, even though this is an indoor climbing gym, there are several cracks where one can learn and refine crack technique. There is a hand crack, a finger crack, a variable-width crack that goes from tight hands past big fists, a pancake flake, and a steep, undercling crack on the lead wall. Thanks to practice on these cracks, I was able to climb traditional crack climbs on my first outdoor climbing trips that were almost as difficult as the face routes I could ascend.
The long, overhanging lead routes and the crack systems make the Urban Krag a great place to train for outdoor climbing, but there are also face routes that are vertical or even slightly slabby. The variety of angles is a great boon to the developing climber. Thanks to climbing at the Krag, I felt just as comfortable on thin face routes as on overhanging, gymnastic jug hauls when I first began venturing outside.
In addition to the face routes and crack systems, there are also bouldering areas. The main bouldering wall has several different angles to help you build strength and refine technique. There is also a cave for those who wish to learn to climb upside down. The routes are the star attractions at this climbing gym, but the bouldering is not bad, although there is not a tremendous amount of it.
In addition to the face climbs, the bouldering, and the cracks, the Urban Krag can also be a venue for other aspects of climbing that rarely show up in gyms. There is a bolt ladder, where basic aid climbing can be learned and practiced. Also, in the winter the gym tends to have dry-tooling routes, where people can get ready for ice and mixed climbing.