Rock climbing has once again made its way into the spotlight with the release of the feature film “Free Solo.” The film follows Alex Honnold, a free soloist (someone who climbs without rope, gear or protection), who climbed the legendary El Capitan in Yosemite, California, a granite face three times the size of the Empire State Building. The film “Free Solo” won the Oscar for best documentary in 2019 and has sparked many interviews with Honnold and other climbers that can be found all over the web and in magazines from Outside to GQ.
Those who have watched movies like “Free Solo” may have the desire to learn to rock climb. Others may want a new form of exercise. Some may be attracted to the social aspect, or others may simply have the desire to shake up their routine and have more adrenaline in their life.
But those new to climbing may not feel confident climbing on their own. They may feel overwhelmed by the terminology or may not know where to start on their rock-climbing journey.
According to Spencer Torman, a student and climber, someone new to rock climbing will need climbing shoes, a harness, a type of belaying device like an ATC, carabiners and rope depending on the type of climbing someone is planning on doing.
All of these items can be expensive, but for Ogden residents and students, Weber State’s outdoor program is a great place to start. In addition to renting out equipment, there is a climbing wall in the Swenson Stromberg Complex located on the Ogden campus open to everyone within certain hours.
“You can climb for free if you’re a student here,” Torman said.
Reese Qualls, a student of the outdoor recreation program and a rock-climbing instructor, said, “Don’t be intimidated by (the climbing wall). It’s a super safe place to learn. The staff is super willing to help out and teach those new skills.”
Qualls explained that the climbing wall is a great resource for climbers of all skill levels. The facilities include a bouldering wall and multiple routes for top roping. Weber State even offers classes that students can take for credit that teach more advanced types of climbing like lead climbing.
“It’s a little bit scary at first, but as you get more experience and repetitions in, it feels more comfortable,” Qualls said.
The entry level climbing types are bouldering and top roping.
Bouldering requires only climbing shoes, no rope or harness are required. Typically, a climber will climb ten to 15 feet off the ground and have a pad underneath them in case they fall or are ready to jump down. This pad absorbs the weight of the fall, making it a safer way to climb. In bouldering, the climber does not go that high, but it is still not a bad idea to have a spotter (someone down below) to guide the climber to land on the pad.
Top roping requires two people. In top roping, the climber can go much higher and still be safe because they have a belayer (someone who holds the rope on the ground and ensures the safety of the climber). Once the top is reached, the climber will rappel (descend) down the wall to the ground with the help of the belayer.
The facility can provide climbers with harnesses, climbing shoes and the rope, which will already be set up for the climbers.
“All these things that you might need to buy, you could just come to the climbing wall and use for free,” Torman said.
A worker from the outdoor recreation program will help any individual who comes to the wall within their hours and give them a tutorial on how to use the equipment, teach the proper commands while climbing and, most importantly, how to be safe and have fun.
Jordan Schraedel, a Weber State Student, when referencing his climbing experience at the Weber State climbing wall said, “I’m having lots of fun. I was skeptical at first because my brother wanted to do it. But now that we’ve gotten through a few classes, I like it.”
The Weber State Outdoor Program website states that the fall 2019 hours for the climbing wall are Mon-Fri 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Tues and Thur 6:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m. and Sat from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.