Phoenix Rock Gym was the first rock-climbing gym in the Valley, and it's retained a strong sense of community over the years. Starting in 1992 on South Roosevelt Street in Tempe, the gym moved after a couple of years to its present location, where it's outlived many other businesses in the Aztec Plaza strip mall. If you used to work out there 10, 15, even 20 years ago, you'll remember some of the same faces. We mean the customers, mainly, but co-founder Paul Diefenderfer, a.k.a. "Dief," still puts in hours there — his short beard perhaps a little grayer.
As old school as this gym is, Dief and the rest have done a good job keeping the place fresh. Taped climbing routes are replaced and rerouted often, and one wall always seems to be under renovation, which is a good thing. The gym hosts several 30-foot top-roping walls, one wing dedicated to lead climbing with an awesome roof section, and two first-rate bouldering rooms. If you have grand outdoor climbing ambitions, this is also a good place to meet an experienced belay partner. Hand strength and forearm muscles may fade, but you can always count on the Phoenix Rock Gym to be there for reconditioning.