Last year when students were asked to choose a design for the new recreation center as part of the Reid Gymnasium renovation, many commented on how great it was to see an indoor climbing wall as part of the design. Some thought that WCU was finally moving into the big leagues.
Naturally I was curious when I discovered that one does not have to wait for the new recreation center to be built to have an “indoor climbing” experience. Yes, that’s right! Every Tuesday night from 7-9 P.M., whether you have never climbed or climb religiously, any WCU student can participate in an indoor climb in Reid gym.
When I first heard the term “indoor rock climbing,” I pictured a man-made structure that resembled the side of a mountain with hooks protruding from it and crevasses strategically placed for optimal climbing.
“The term is a little misleading because we are using a climbing spire,” said Leigh Jackson, Base Camp Cullowhee (BCC) program director. “So we do not call it ‘rock climbing’ per se.” Instead, she said it is referred to as “climbing on the climbing spire.”
The climbing spire program is cosponsored. The Parks and Recreation Department’s Ben Tholkes manages the spire, and BCC facilitators staff it on Tuesday nights to offer students the opportunity for some free fun and recreation. Wear comfortable clothing and tennis or climbing shoes and you are good to go. All the necessary equipment is provided.
The spire is great for beginners because it provides a safe environment for learning and developing skills and making mistakes. “You do not need any experience whatsoever! In fact, we encourage and welcome beginners,” said Jackson.
“If you do not consider yourself an “athlete,” do not be discouraged. You can come out and take it one step at a time,” she said. “Training is quick and easy to be provided on-site. The facilitators will introduce the climber to the gear, then commands, and then they are ready to climb on the spire,” remarked Jackson.
In fact, trained BCC facilitators teach climbing techniques and are there to guide you through the experience, whether you are a novice or not. Climbing is definitely a skill, explained Jackson; some will find climbing easy, others hard. However, “Every person can achieve their own level of satisfaction,” she said.
Describing the process further, Jackson explained, “There are particular commands used between ‘climber’ and ‘belayer’ that the students will learn when they come to climb the spire. These commands create a relationship between the climber and the belayer. This relationship along with the belay system promotes a safe climbing environment for our students.”
The spire is equally great for experienced climbers. They can benefit just as much as a beginner. Through the use of the spire they can hone their technical climbing skills, thus making their real-life experience that much more rewarding and safe.
For those not really interested in outdoor rock climbing, the spire offers a great alternative to the traditional gym and weight-room workout. Climbing works the entire body, explained Jackson, “It does amazing things for the legs, arms and back.” The spire has four routes and allows users to optimize their experience by personalizing their routine. Most importantly, “the climber can challenge herself/himself at a level comfortable to them.”
If you have any questions about the climbing spire or any other BCC program, visit them online: www.wcu.edu/univcenter/outdoors; or, call them at (828) 227- 3466. Base Camp Cullowhee hours of operation are from 11A.M.-5 P.M., Monday through Friday. The hours of operation for the Climbing Spire are 7-9 P.M. on Tuesday nights in October and November. The specific dates in October are: 7, 14, 21, and 28. The specific dates in November are: 4, 11, 18, and 25.
If climbing is something that interests you, take the time to learn a little about it. Before you head off on your own to go climb somewhere and likely get into trouble, the best and safest way to learn is right here on campus. The indoor spire on Tuesday nights in Reid is the smartest way to hone your skills. Remember: An emergency rescue and a trip to the hospital can be very expensive. Getting a little practice and instruction on the climbing spire is free!