Rock equals brain

Charlotte Muller

Rock climbing offers mental and physical workout

Ready to climb! On belay! For avid rock climbers, these cries might sound relatively familiar.

Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. all students are welcome to participate in the Rock Climbing Introduction Clinic at the Student Wellness and Recreation Center.

Inexperienced students or members can get involved in the clinic for $15.

Under the guidance of an experienced climbing instructor, participants will gain the necessary skills to climb the 40-foot-high indoor climbing wall.

Sophomore art history major Ames McLaughlin started climbing at the rec center after she showed up for a free climbing session her freshman year.

“I really enjoyed my time climbing,” she said. McLaughlin’s love for climbing eventually landed her a job at the rec center working with the wall.

On belay: One reporter’s account

The basic premise behind rock climbing is extremely simple. You are trying to climb from the bottom to the top of something. Simple enough, right?

Ames McLaughlin, sophomore art history major and employee at the climbing wall at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, was about to harness me in.

“Just climb,” she said.

And off I went. I had some experience rock climbing, but that was way back when I was still young and flexible. Standing in front of that wall now, after three years of college and a whole lot of late-night fast food meals, it was a different story.

I pulled myself up on the first grip, finding a place to rest my feet. Slowly, I started progressing toward the top. It was hard to keep finding good grips, since the wall was very similar to a natural rock.

After about five minutes, I made it to the top on the easy run.

McLaughlin told me to lean back and walk down the wall. I made it to the ground safe, but I was ready for another challenge.

This time I chose a more difficult route. I started off fine, but halfway up I lost my courage. My legs seemed to give in, my arms were shaking from exhaustion and I was ready to call it quits.

I asked McLaughlin if she could let me down, but instead she led me up. Following her advice on where to place my hands and feet, I managed to conquer the wall again.

Hanging at 40-feet in the air, it felt like a relief. My body was tired, but I felt satisfied making it to the top.

-Charlotte Muller

McLaughlin and co-worker Chelsea Orsburn, sophomore geology major, said the clinic is a great way to start out.

“Participants will learn everything needed to prepare for the Safety and Skills test,” Orsburn said. “After they pass, they can climb on their own.”

The test ensures that each individual knows knots, safe belaying techniques, rope management skills, technical equipment use and the climbing commands.

Typically the clinic will teach four students at a time.

“You get a lot of practice,” Orsburn said.

According to the rec center’s Web site, the wall is 40-feet high and has 12 different climbing stations. The more than 2,500 square feet of rock has different surfaces offering challenges for climbers of all skill levels.

McLaughlin explained that you can always make it harder.

“Instead of using all the crevices, caves and deep grips across the rock, you try to follow a route,” she said.

Different colors of tape identify specific routes, which allow climbers to choose the level of difficulty at which they want to go up.

“A particular skill is bouldering,” McLaughlin said. “You basically move vertically but you climb closer to the ground so you don’t have to wear a harness.”

Rock climbing involves strength, control and finesse. Climbers have to use their brain to find perfect placement for their hands and feet in order for their muscles to get them up.

“It’s a good workout,” Orsburn said, “because you use every muscle in your body while working at your balance at the same time.”

Upon successfully completing the test, which is included in the $15 cost, climbers get a 4-month complimentary membership with access to the wall during operating hours.

The wall is open for climbing from 4 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The adventure center offers other clinics for the more experienced climber.

“We teach approved climbers edging and different grip positioning, but also rappelling and lead climbing,” McLaughlin said. “Participants will be more prepared to climb outdoors after these events.”

Equipment can be rented, and when ready to purchase your own gear, climbing equipment is available at the Pro Shop.

For more information on climbing wall events, call (330) 672-2803.

Contact student wellness reporter Charlotte Muller at [email protected].