Up The Wall: Local Foundation Faces Challenges to Offer Community Climbing

Visit Parque de los Reyes any day of the week and you’ll encounter young people and families staring up into the sky with curiosity as climbers make their way up the facade of a brightly painted abandoned cement factory. Since mounting its first climbing route in 2013, Parque de Escalada Los Silos has been a bright example of Fundacion Deportelibre's mission. Located in Barrio Yungay's Parque de los Reyes, the organization aims to fuse eco-conscious architecture and art with sport and a mountaineering lifestyle to improve the lives of community youths. Recently, Parque de Escalada Los Silos has faced some heartbreaking challenges, keeping the foundation partners battling more than just a sedentary lifestyle among young Chileans.

photo by Travis Toll
photo by Travis Toll

Over the past three years, Fundacion Deportelibre has transformed a derelict building and former haven of drug use and petty crime, into an innovative and visually stimulating climbing wall and bouldering park. “These days, we receive around 70 or more climbers per day on average” said Miguel Anabalon, one of the founding members of Fundacion Deportelibre. He and co-founders Juan Pablo Mohr and Pedro Anguita were inspired to collaborate on this project due to their shared interest in climbing and sustainable building, and they've provided an innovative location for anyone to climb and train free of charge.

The plan for Parque de Escalada Los Silos has evolved since its inception, while upcycled building projects in Germany and Spain have acted as useful examples. “Our design has been based on reality, the existing structure, and the materials at our disposal financially,” adds Anguita, architect of the foundation. He explained that the group remains committed to using sustainable and local materials instead of newly fabricated or imported ones. In recent construction, this included using “barro,” mud or clay cement bricks, formed using mud from below a bridge less than 75 meters away.

Parque Escalada de Los Silos has been an obvious success in the community as an example of repurposing materials and space while addressing community concerns. Anabalon credits collaborating entity Fundacion Moviliza for targeting the homelessness and delinquency before construction began. “They helped find jobs for those in need of one,” he says, and this opened up the opportunity for Fundación Deportelibre to begin the important work of impacting the local community in a positive way.

But while offering young people in an underserved neighborhood the opportunity to exercise and develop constructive passions, Fundación Deportelibre has been working twice as hard to persevere against repeated threats to their progress by members of the community they actively hope to engage.

In September of this year, valuable tools used in the construction of a new bouldering section were stolen from the organization's administrative offices located inside of Los Silos. Anabalon explained that the alleged thieves were seen using incomplete scaffolding to climb into the offices and make off with power tools, bikes, and building materials.

Then in November, mere days after the newest section was debuted in a bouldering competition, the foundation suffered a massive fire, destroying the brand new construction and causing extreme damage to the foundation offices. The fire was allegedly started by a group of young people, presumably to break into the offices and steal materials. In response, the foundation has begun a fundraising campaign called "Siloton" to raise the money to rebuild what was lost and continue improving upon the project.

photo by Travis Toll
photo by Travis Toll

Los Silos has gained in popularity and use over the last three years as its visibility has increased and construction advanced. A visit from internationally regarded climber Alex Honnold in October 2015 boosted social media engagement and helped gain international attention. Fundacion Deportelibre has hosted yoga workshops, mountaineering chats, open forums, and movie nights at Los Silos in order to help build their potential audience and serve members of the community not reached through climbing alone. In November, the first climbing competition drew an engaged crowd to cheer on children, novices, and expert climbers as they competed for prizes.

photo by Travis Toll
photo by Travis Toll

For those who are interested in the project, Los Silos offers the opportunity to try climbing for free and to observe experienced climbers. In an effort to make the sport available to the broader community, Fundación Deportlibre also offers introductory group climbing lessons at CLP $40,000 for six sessions. Costs for climbing equipment can be prohibitive, so the organization hopes to offer rentals and receive used equipment donations in the future.

Find Parque de Escalada Los Silos at Presidente Balmaceda 2822, Quinta Normal, Región Metropolitan; Metro Cumming and a 20 minute walk. Donate to the "Siloton" fundraising campaign or learn more about Fundacion Deportelibre's current projects at deportelibre.cl.

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