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Updated: Nov 29, 2023


By Connie Mandeville | Photo Supplied

Originally started as a program at the oldest summer camp owned by one family in the United States, Camp Pok-O-MacCready, The Crux Climbing Gym is now open year-round to better serve residents of the Champlain Valley. It is the only climbing facility in the eastern Adirondacks and is a great resource for North Country residents during the cold winter months.

If you are looking for a new activity this fall and winter, The Crux Climbing Gym is a good place to start. Its facilities are state of the art and offer something for all abilities and skill levels. The walls — 40-feet-tall — attract locals and tourists alike. They accommodate crack and slab climbing and include ones that are less than vertical, perfectly vertical and overhang.

Dave Durant, executive director of Camp Pok-O-MacCready, noted the numerous health benefits of rock climbing — help with balance, strength building and focusing. It also allows you to measure your progress. When health is viewed holistically, rock climbing provides exercise, socialization and helps to reduce stress levels. One of the most important benefits is its impact on mental health. It is one of the reasons why Durant believes it so important to help locals stay active during the winter. It also provides a much-needed social outlet for many, especially after the isolation we have all experienced during the pandemic.

With both indoor and outdoor facilities, The Crux can be open all four seasons, but its most popular season by far is winter. During the summer, with a full component of campers on site, the gym is open only one night a week, but climbers are welcome four to five times a week during the camp’s offseason.

During the winter months, The Crux has various programs and classes for all ages, including a kid’s team for the young ones and a combined yoga and climbing class for adults. During his interview with Strictly Business Durant was excited to announce a father-daughter class this winter. He noted that one of the best things about The Crux is seeing people come in who would otherwise have been home watching Netflix. The place really comes alive during the winter and “is a place for locals to socialize and exercise on a cold winter’s night.”

The Crux is also a great place for birthday parties and to host other group activities. Girl Scouts groups often visit as well as student groups from SUNY Plattsburgh. This past May, The Crux and Camp Pok-O-MacCready were happy to host girls from local schools who were participating in the Shine On program, organized by the Student Association at SUNY Plattsburgh. School groups also come to The Crux during the fall season to learn about rock climbing. Camp Pok-a-MacCready proudly provides scholarships for local students to attend the camp, and that philosophy has been passed on to the gym as well.

Older climbers enjoy The Crux’s facilities and during the winter many experienced climbers use it to stay in shape. Tourists are also part of The Crux family. Recently, a family from Georgia spent a rainy day enjoying its climbing walls.

The gym’s primary goal is to be a place to learn a new outdoor sport and be a resource for local residents. The gym connects like-minded folks such as a group of women in their thirties that come weekly and have made The Crux part of their social lives. “There’s a real community here,” Durant emphasized. “I see The Crux as one star in that constellation.” After a nation-wide search, Durant is excited to welcome a new rock climbing coordinator, Kaybe Loughran, to the staff this fall. Loughran, who is from Milwaukee, will bring a great deal to The Crux team. “With her climbing skills and her experience as an outdoor guide, we think she will be a great role model for the climbers we see.”

Durant’s long history at Pok-O-MacCready started when he was a nine year old first summer camper. He loved the experience and as he grew older, he became a counselor, helping new generations develop their love of the outdoors. He eventually moved on to spend 12 years working in Wyoming at the National Outdoor Leadership School where he led classes on month-long excursions. Now back at Pok-O-MacCready, Durant will rely on his experience to expand its offerings and plans to start a guide service that will provide introductions to equipment, technique and strength training. Students will start indoors and then go out on trips in the Adirondacks.

Although he grew up near Philadelphia and spent over a decade out West, Durant loves being back in the North Country and has been impressed with how much growth has taken place since he left the region. Between the breweries in Westport and Keeseville, the farms producing the unbelievable food, the movie nights at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall and the Pizza Nights at the bakery in Wadhams, there is truly something for everybody and he looks forward to expanding The Crux’s presence within the community.

Pok-O-MacCready/The Crux 1391 Reber Road Willsboro, NY 12996 (518) 963-7656

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