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First Person Experience: Rock climbing proves to be hard but fun

Kristen Campbell
Editor in Chief

Up until a week ago, I had only gone to a rock climbing gym once – when I was in sixth grade and had all of the energy in the world. On April 8 I ventured to new heights and tried my hand at rock climbing with the help of the professional and friendly staff at Hangar 18 in Upland.

This gym offers a wide variety of climbing terrain for the “newbies” like me and for the well-seasoned climbers like Hangar’s regulars.

“The youngest climber we’ve ever had was two years old and the oldest goes up to ripped men in their 70s,” manager Brad Still said.

Still has been climbing for over 12 years and has worked at Hangar 18 since 2005, when he started to pursue a communications degree at Cal Poly Pomona.

Dave Hamilton, general manager of Hangar 18’s three locations, has been climbing since he was two years old and was more than happy to tell me about the Yosemite Decimal System, which is how they rate the difficulty of climbing paths.

“Paths are rated based on the slope of the wall starting with the number five,” Hamilton said. “A wall rated 5.5 is as easy as it gets up to around 5.13.”

Hamilton said another form of climbing is called bouldering and has its own scale, V0 to V9, which requires more core and arm strength.

“Only those who have been climbing for a while can even attempt those boulders,” Hamilton said. “It takes a lot of strategy and skill to successfully climb.”

When I arrived to the gym in my workout gear, I was greeted by Still who handed me a harness and climbing shoes.

“Your harness should fit like a tighter pair of pants and you shouldn’t be able to wiggle your toes once your shoes are tied,” Still said.

Once my gear was on and I almost literally could not move, Still took my boyfriend and me over to the easiest wall to teach us the art of belaying.

Belaying is used to keep the climber safe while ascending the wall. Usually a belay device, or a gri-gri, is used to ensure the rope will lock if the climber loses his or her grip on the rocks, so that they will just hang instead of falling to the ground.

While we were practicing belaying, I was watching the more weathered climbers attempting the boulder walls. These men would begin the climb and be upside-down and drop to the mats without prevail, yet still jump back up and try again.

After Still felt we knew what we were doing, he told us to have fun and enjoy climbing, which was when I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I allowed my boyfriend to ascend first since I needed to build up the courage to leave the ground.

After what seemed like no time at all, I was tied in to the belay system and it was my turn to climb the wall. With no upper body strength and only my boyfriend keeping my life safe, I took a deep breath and started to climb.

I learned quickly that my stronger muscles were in my core and legs and eventually used my hands just to hold on to the wall. I made it to the top and looked down and felt accomplished, despite my fear of heights.

After my extra slack was pulled in, I leaned back and descended like a SWAT team member. With adrenaline rushing through my veins I was pumped and ready to try again.

After my next climb, my fear of heights set in completely and I decided to belay for the duration of my stay. Although my fear of heights got the best of me in the end, eight year old Sulei Diaz-Deleon did not let anything stop him.

“I was watching a movie with my dad and a guy was rock climbing and I decided I wanted to try it out,” Diaz-Deleon said. “My wrists are hurting but I have gone up and down seven times already.”

According to WebMD, rock climbing is beneficial for weight control and is a stress reliever. The climb itself builds strength and endurance while also developing problem solving skills.

While getting in a workout belaying, I also had a lot of fun learning new things and taking a step out of my comfort zone.

College students can pay $28 to receive a one-month membership. Each membership includes rental gear, unlimited access to the gym, one free guest pass per month and free belay training. For more information, call 909-931-5991 or visit climbhangar18.com.

Kristen Campbell can be reached at kristen.campbell@laverne.edu.

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