The evolution of EVO LOU

Inside EVO Rock + Fitness, a climbing gym focused on inclusion, inspiration and a celebration of all that is climbing

When Hilary Harris first arrived in Boulder in 1986, she was greeted by fog. Low clouds shrouded the city as she toured the University of Colorado and pondered whether a transfer to the school was the right move.

On her last day in town, the clouds lifted, and the beauty of the Flatirons came into view. At that moment, she knew she was home.

It was here that Hilary fell in love with climbing. Even after moving to New Hampshire to work as an architect, Boulder was always calling her name.

After the 2008 recession, Hilary decided to bring some of her Boulder roots to the East Coast. In 2001, she built the first-ever EVO Rock + Fitness climbing gym in Concord, New Hampshire. By 2015, the second location was built in Portland, Maine.

But despite reconnecting with the climbing industry through EVO, Hilary knew the East Coast would never truly be home.

Meanwhile, in Louisville, CO, Clint Dillard was dreaming up a climbing gym of his own. As a high school student in Georgia, he discovered his love of climbing; after a climbing trip, he fell in love with Boulder, too.

By 1999, he made the move to Colorado, settled in as a Physician Assistant in Louisville, and eventually started a family.

Though still an avid climber, the transition to parenthood left Clint craving a different kind of climbing gym—one that was accessible for the entire community. He envisioned a gym that catered to and inspired novices and professionals alike.  

With his big idea in hand, Clint approached Stephen Price, a fellow Rocky Mountain Rescue Group volunteer, to join as a partner. He immediately agreed. 

After speaking at the Climbing Wall Association Summit in Boulder 2014, Hilary met with Clint and Stephen; quickly, it became apparent that their climbing gym visions were perfectly aligned. 

The EVO brand that Hilary built back East was focused on community and inclusion—a place where “egos are left at the door”—and it embodied the exact atmosphere Clint and Stephen hoped to create. Additionally, building a location in Louisville was Hilary's ticket back to the area she loved. 

By 2017, EVO Rock + Fitness, Louisville (EVO LOU) officially opened its doors: a modern masterpiece complete with soaring ascents, kid-friendly climbs, a sound-attenuated yoga room, fitness studios, pre and postpartum classes, and a beautiful daycare.

EVO LOU offers many other ways to get elevated, including indoor climbing clinics, outdoor guided climbing, private lessons, youth classes and summer camps, as well as climbing teams for kids of all ages and skill levels. EVO LOU also has a variety of fitness and yoga classes, ranging from catering specifically to climbing to general fitness.

As Hilary explains, EVO is all about the user experience, and the aesthetic of the space is matched only by its utility. All EVO gyms have a stunning layout specifically designed to “create space for people of all climbing abilities to coexist.” [A great example of this is the kids' area, which is located a floor above the main climbing space, so young climbers can watch in awe as advanced climbers ascend to their level and seemingly climb by their sides.]

Even the colors of the gym logo were chosen with intention: green represents their dedication to being stewards of the environment; brown evokes the history of climbing and the visionaries who made the sport what it is today; and the bright colors that bring EVO’s walls to life symbolize a bridge from past to present, honoring climbing’s past while moving forward into its future.

While responsible for the birth of EVO, Hilary is quick to note that partnering with Clint and Stephen has grown EVO “beyond her wildest dreams.” As they prepare to open the doors of EVO Bouldering, Golden, in early 2020, the trio is committed to further fostering EVO’s mission of “building upon, strengthening and evolving with climbers and the climbing community.” 

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