In 1987, Gary Rall loaded up his climbing pack and hopped a flight from Oregon to England.Four years out of college and stuck in a dead-end sales job, he arrived in Sheffield hoping for a cathartic vacation. One afternoon at the gritstone crag of Stanage Edge, Rall asked a local climber how he stayed fit in such a rainy area.
Soon, Lynn Hill, Alan Watts, and other pros began stopping by whenever they visited the iconic Smith Rock State Park.The man replied that he top-roped on an indoor practice route at the nearby community center in Sheffield. I realized that a climbing wall might be a hit back home.” Rall returned to Portland, drafted a survey to gauge local climbers’ interest in an indoor wall; the responses suggested that a rock gym would be popular.Rall visited and saw how the local climbers had glued a swath of stones onto a brick wall. When a bank nixed Rall’s request for a loan, he raised the money through a grassroots donation campaign. “It was really just a dream and a prayer.” When Portland Rock Gym opened in 1988, it was one of the few modular climbing gyms in the world and the second in the United States.Hometown: “My family moved to Portland, Oregon, when I was 14. I raced my old Porsche 911 at Portland International Raceway from 2001 to 2009.Before that, Columbus, Ohio, by way of Montana and Georgia. My dad was a North Dakota farm boy who joined the Air Force—he met my city-slicker mom when he was stationed in England.” Home Base: Portland, Oregon Education: BA in English literature from Portland State University Gym Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. I stopped when the economy tanked, but I want to start back up.