Reaching new heights: Rock climbing challenges a spirit of adventure


Verne Homscher, a graduate of The University of Akron, climbs the 35-foot rock climbing wall at the Rec Center on March 10, 2015.

Jamie Brian

Looking up at the 35-foot climbing wall may seem intimidating with all its slopes and ridges, but it’s a challenge students have embraced. They do their harnesses, anchor their ropes and anxiously grip the first handhold.

Michaela Kline,a senior international relations major, got hooked on climbing when she attended a Free Climb Friday event her freshman year at the Kent State climbing wall at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Since that first trial class, Kline has tackled outdoor trips to West Virginia, Utah and Kentucky. She also climbed in Geneva, Switzerland, while study abroad.

“I like the challenge and that I can be competitive with myself,” Kline said. “I’m looking up at the wall trying to gauge my next move. I don’t want to look too far ahead. I just want to focus on where I am right now.”

Looking up from the ground, Benjamin Moidel, a junior aeronautics major, cheers on a friend who is climbing the wall and offers advice for her next handhold. He started climbing in Colorado and has since gone on outdoor trips to New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

“It hurts. Your muscles hurt. The wall tears your hands up. It’s a good hurt, though,” Moidel said. “Climbing is a lot like any other workout with more consideration. You have to notice the ropes and other people around you and ask, ‘If I fall, how am I going to fall?’”

Amanda Monarchino, a sophomore middle childhood education major, rappels down, smiling as her feet hit the ground. She started climbing at the Cleveland Rock Gym and is looking forward to her first outdoor climbing trip at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

“It’s very nerve-wracking the first time you do it, but after a while, you’ll still shake, but your shakes turn into shakes of being tired,” Monarchino said. “You know that you’re going to be OK. You don’t feel like you’re going to fall anymore. It just feels very straining, and at every moment, you want to let go so bad, but you don’t.”

Climbing is a fairly new hobby for Helena Holmgren, a sophomore integrated life sciences major, bringing with it a new essence.

“The ropes smell from the friction of letting someone down,” Holmgren said. “It’s almost an electrical kind of smell, and there’s the smell of chalk, dried dust and sweat.”

The rock wall may have laughter and echoes from the basketball court in the background, but for Kline, climbing is a chance to find an escape.

“When you’re climbing outside, it’s easy to forget where you are,” Kline said. “The sounds of nature are just so calming.”

Those who decide to stick with it and get past the initial fear find that each route can be a different experience.

“It’s like solving a puzzle, and you can help other people solve it,” Holmgren said. “You can make it however hard or easy you want, depending on what you want to accomplish.”

Contact Jamie Brian at [email protected].