Try-hard Climber / Semi-retired Gamer / Unseasoned Adventurer / Occasional Video Editor / Serial Internet Lurker
Published February 19th 2018
Johor Bahru has a new climbing destination
During our short trip down to Johor Bahru to sample the climbing gyms mushrooming in the area, we paid a visit to Rocky Basecamp's second outlet in Malaysia - located amongst the retail space of AEON Mall Tebrau City. This puts it in direct competition with Camp5's Johor outlet (unfortunately, this wasn't open yet at the time of our trip), located at Paradigm Mall JB. The climbing scene in Johor has definitely become a vibrant one, and it's easy to see why with a potential Singaporean market coming in from just across the border.
Rocky Basecamp Tebrau City has a pretty nice setup - with vast amounts of floor space and towering windows.
Despite sharing the same brand name, Rocky Basecamp's Tebrau City outlet is a far cry from the original outlet at AEON Mall Shah Alam. With much more space and a larger variety of climbing options, the Tebrau City outlet feels more complete as a whole. This climbing gym feels like the spiritual successor to Xero Gravity at Petaling Jaya, which unfortunately closed down at the beginning of July 2017. Managed under the capable hands of Xero Gravity's founder and former Iranian national climbing team member and coach Mahdi Parsafarid, the Rocky Basecamp brand looks set to expand into more AEON properties in the months or years to come.
Located at Level 1 of AEON Mall Tebrau City, Rocky Basecamp's pretty hard to miss - the colourful logo and font stand out against the black paint covering the front facade. Being located in a shopping mall makes it more accessible to families and first-timers who wouldn't ordinarily have thought of giving climbing a go. At first glance, it may seem a little like a cafe at first (after all, they do have a small cafe up front). The cashier counter also sits at the front, where visitors need to pay before they enter.
There's separate pricing for juniors (aged 4-14) and adults (aged 15 ) - prices start from RM25 for juniors and RM35 for adults for a 2-hour pass (not sure how they track your time though). A day pass costs RM55 for juniors and RM75 for adults, while there's separate weekday pricing for Sundays to Thursdays between 6pm to 10pm at RM35 for juniors and RM40 for adults. If this definition of weekdays seems a little strange to you, it's because the public sector and parts of the private sector in Johor have their weekends on Fridays and Saturdays instead. Harnesses, climbing shoes and guidance from instructors are all included in the price. It's relatively steep pricing for sure, but such is the cost of operating in a high traffic retail area.
You'll find 2 floors of climbing space here and a regulation speed wall.
Once we've paid and moved deeper inside, there was a second counter where visitors could provide their receipts to collect their rental gear. We didn't do this as we brought our own gear. Locker facilities are also available. One minor inconvenience was that there didn't seem to be toilets in the gym itself - visitors had to walk out of the premises to use the mall's toilets instead. One scan of the tickets and you're through the turnstiles into the climbing gym.
The climbing gym is very spacious - it's clear it was built with larger scale events in mind. One thing to note is that almost all the anchors here have auto belays installed, so climbers can clip in and they're good to go. This reduces the need to have manual human belays, but I think this requires more supervision for the kids running around in their harnesses - I saw a kid forget to clip the lanyard back into the ground anchor, causing the auto belay device to retract the lanyard all the way to the top. This meant that the routes on that anchor couldn't be climbed until someone went up there and brought the lanyard back down.
The bouldering cave is a great place to work on those overhangs.
Along the inner wall sits the bouldering area, which offers a nice variety of vertical and overhanging routes of varying difficulty. The entire area is padded with 12-inch crash pads to protect climbers from nasty falls. At the time we visited, they still felt a bit stiff (probably because they were brand-new) and will likely soften with age.
Large, floor-to-ceiling windows are a thing here - and they lend the place a refreshing air and a healthy amount of sunlight during the day.
The entire ambience around the bouldering area itself made it a great place to spend an entire day just working at different bouldering routes and kicking back on the beanbags in between climbs. There are more than enough routes to keep climbers occupied for some time - and they're bound to switch things up after a while.
The Fun Wall's a selection of 10 anchors across 8 different themes - on the far left is a proper chimney route for climbers keen on shimmying up holds on opposing walls. There are also themed routes based on astronomy and a library (with 'books' sticking out you can hold onto), among others. This is bound to be popular with the kids.
A neat little part about the Solar System-themed routes was that some planets were actually protruding as proper climbing holds, while Jupiter and Saturn were pieces of plywood that protruded slightly that climbers could use to gain some leverage. I found the edges to splinter a bit though, so I wouldn't suggest counting on these too much. Do practise caution when sending kids up these routes.
Higher and more difficult than it looks, I noticed most visitors generally avoided this area. However, it offers a challenging mix of obstacles including a slightly smaller version of the warped wall often featured at the end of many Ninja Warrior courses.
A few anchors don't have an auto belay - human input is required.
Rocky Basecamp Tebrau City shows great promise - it's got an impressive setup with a pretty good amount of variety in a location that many will find convenient. It's also a positive sign of things to come for the climbing scene in Johor - its location in a shopping mall will mean it'll be the entry point to climbing for many. If you can stomach the cost (and let's face it - most climbing gyms are relatively costly affairs), it's a great place to drop by to climb while you're in Johor.