Professor Roberto Ascalon
29 January 2016
The Rock Wall Review for Beginners
Do you like to live on the edge hanging for survival? Are your endorphins aching to be released? Are your friends or family bugging you to try something exciting and new? Can you appreciate the look of a good man bun or the smell of hard earned sweat that’s not earned from an elliptical or treadmill? If so, this is the right review for you to read. A perfect way to free upper and lower body energy, meet new people, and work through obstacles while being positively motivated without judgment is engage in this heart pumping activity. The thrill that most people have experienced before stems from not realizing that this heart pumping exercise is not only a body-altering activity but also a challenge to both physicality and mentality each time. Thankfully for people like you who aren’t familiar with climbing rock walls everywhere have a staff of talented climbers to help with personal coordination on the wall and bring you to understand all of the elements this stimulating sport has to hold.
Your friends or family that engage in this exhilarating activity must say it’s a blast because it pushes beyond comfort zones by weighing out right from wrong, in the sense that the next rock you might go to grab may lead to plummeting 12 feet to the ground. But, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Recently, I visited the Rock Wall at Western Washington University. To be fair with rock walls in general, many of the holds, or rocks that you grab onto as you progress up the wall in hopes of finishing at the top, are missing, dirty, or unstable. What I’ve noticed in my time having climbed many professional rock walls is that climbing staffs are quick to brush off chalk-covered holds, will screw in holds that are loose fitting, and the equipment is significantly cheaper to rent. Whereas, the Rock Wall I am reviewing in this article does have a great staff, but they don’t keep up on responsibilities like this. Climbing starts at the floor in and progresses up the wall. Rocks, at the Rock Wall are missing so you probably won’t achieve getting to the top as planned. Maybe you’re almost to the top but the next rock you grab falls out of the wall because it’s loose enough to where it has been neglected by the workers leaving you falling or hopelessly hanging by your other arm not knowing what to reach for next.
Needless to say, this Rock Wall is for beginners but because it is so complex not understanding how to properly attack the wall on the first move is the best move, which applies to many climbing strategies and other walls as well. This is a great start to learning how to advance around rock walls and will not leave you hanging by a limb because there are many random excluded rocks to get you to the top if you really wanted. The most important part of the challenge in climbing is to always strive for getting a better understanding for the diversity of rocks by working your body in weird ways and feeling out which rocks will determine your future of success or failure. I promise that you will still have a great time even though there are many common mistakes in the rock walls as seen below.
I hope your nails aren’t done because fingers and hands are key to climbing. Hands prevent falling and guarantee your progression going up walls. Any advanced climber’s palms are more than likely to be covered in tape or bandages, blisters, or calluses so it’s important to note that if hands or fingers become moist at any time during climbing this will take away friction from you and the rock. Chalk, a necessity for climbing that will take away wetness on the skin is around $10 for a 300g bag. Climbing shoes, another expensive necessity for climbing, are offered at a usual rate of $4 for rentals. Harnesses, the last item on the list that’s required for climbing above 12 feet, vary in costs from wall to wall and may not be available to rent at all.
A climbing gym that I have yet to visit here in Bellingham is Vital Climbing Gym. I anticipate better-kept walls, but the same amount of fun and excitement. By visiting other gyms as you progress in your career as a climber, walls like this one will become only a play toy in the playground of climbing. Rates for climbing equipment vary everywhere, but not by much which is a plus. Weighing out options wouldn’t be a bad idea, but visiting all of these places would be an even greater one.
Above, is a picture I took at the Rock Wall during clean up when no one is allowed on the mat. This image gives a good idea of how high high climbing walls extend. I spoke with friend of mine, Logan Fletcher, a student at Western Washington University who works with the Western climbing staff as assistant floor manager and staffs for the Vital Climbing Gym. My first question was why are many rocks so out of place, loose, and dirty. He said, “The rocks just get like that. But yeah we haven’t been keeping up with much around the gym. There’s a climbing tournament here in a couple of weeks so we will be required to take down all of the rocks then clean and realign them.”
The music at many climbing walls are always chosen with great taste and fits most people’s likings. Personally, when I do any sort of calorie burning movement I like to put in my headphones and get in my element. A song that really brings everyone on the mat together is The Climb by Miley Cyrus. The singer begins explaining her climb, “There’s a voice inside my head saying you’ll never reach it / every step I’m takin’ /every move I make feels lost with no direction.” She probably feels that way because there are a lot of rocks missing. She concludes the ballad by saying, “Always gonna be an uphill battle / sometimes I’m gonna have to lose / ain’t about how fast I get there.” Climbing takes time, patients, and the kind of positivity Miley is singing about. As a community we push everyone through motivation when striving to reach individual battles of our own. If music isn’t your incentive to exceed limits try reading ‘Banner in the Sky’ by James Ullman. This is an exciting easy read story about a boy who climbs the treacherous summits of Alps in his father’s name who died trying to reach the top. Understanding the mind of another climber is very dynamic because most utilize certain strategies to defeat the rock route, unknown to others and value survival more than anything. By seeing, listening, or reading when other people become motivated we are more likely to copy them seeing them as successful they are.
In conclusion, climbing is an out of body experience because slipping and consciously falling from great heights is an adrenalin rush unexplainable by any other activity. This Rock Wall like many others does its job but it should be completely reconstructed. There are many errors that come with rock walls in general like loose, dirty, or missing rocks. Rental rates vary from this wall to others and the staff here does not maintain the wellbeing of the rocks and walls, but the amount of fun in each experience is memorable and priceless. I highly recommend, as indicated by me in the picture below, to visit a rock wall nearby or this wall if you’re in town. If you’re looking to experience excitement out of your everyday zone, meet new people, or continue on your path of becoming a skilled climber, this activity is right for you.
Cyrus, Miley. The Climb. 2009. John Shanks. CD.
Fletcher, Logan. Personal interview. 13 Jan. 2016.
Ullman, James. Banner in the Sky. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.
Vital Climbing Gym. 1421 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98225.
WWU Wade King Student Recreation Center. 1880 Bill McDonald Pkwy,
Bellingham, WA 98225. 12 Jan. 2016.