Wellness Center rock wall featured in Forum story

Ready to rock: Rock climbing gaining popularity in F-M area
By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – Andrea Clarens compares rock climbing to doing a puzzle.

Figuring out each move is like putting another piece into place.

“When you’re working for maybe a couple weeks – three, four weeks even sometimes – on a certain move on a route and then you’re able to get it, and you’re able to move past that point, I think that’s a really great feeling,” says the 20-year-old North Dakota State University student.

JoVal Wettlaufer, NDSU’s campus recreation and intramural sports coordinator, has noticed a growing interest in rock climbing in the Fargo-Moorhead area, especially among its college students.

“Students are doing it more these days, and I see a lot of people doing outdoor climbing more,” she says.

Clarens first scaled the wall as a freshman.

“It’s a really odd feeling when you first realize that you’re basically just connected to a rope that’s going up to the top of the wall,” she says.

But she got used to it, learned to trust her belayer (the person who holds the rope), and kept pushing herself to reach the next level.

So did Brooke Kosloski.

The 21-year-old Minnesota State University Moorhead senior has been using her school’s wall since she, too, was a freshman.
She was a little nervous to try it, but as soon as she got the hang of it, she was hooked.

For her, the wall provides an escape.

“It’s somewhere I can go and put ear buds in and just go,” she says.

NDSU’s and MSUM’s climbing walls are similar, standing 34 feet and 30 feet to the pinnacle, respectively.
Both have separate walls for “bouldering” – rock climbing close enough to the ground that ropes aren’t needed.
The free-standing walls can be used by climbers of all abilities, from beginner to expert. No previous experience needed.

“We have students who come in who have never worked out in their life and they’re able to make it up the wall,” Kosloski says.
She’s noticed an increase in her strength and stamina, especially in her legs and forearms, since she started climbing.

“You use your legs to go up the wall, your hands to stay on the wall,” she says.

Clarens and Kosloski have also put their rock-climbing skills to the test outdoors, where there’s a bigger risk of slips and falls.

“Of course you want to be safe when you’re indoors, too, but you have to be even more aware outside,” Clarens says.

Now they climb most days and work at their walls helping others.

Kosloski encourages anyone to try it.

“Even if you don’t like it, at least you can say you tried it,” she says. “I didn’t know I would like it when I started, and it turned into a huge hobby of mine and something that I’m really passionate about.”

NDSU’s Wettlaufer says about 700 men and 400 women took NDSU’s two-hour certification class last year.

Although more men than women were certified, Clarens doesn’t think more men climb on a regular basis than women.

“The women that do get certified may tend to come back at a higher rate than the men that get certified,” she says. “It’s probably still dominated by men, but I don’t think it’s hugely skewed in one direction.”

Wettlaufer prefers to stay on the ground, but she says rock climbing is a fun challenge.

“Our student staff is amazing at motivating others to get up the wall and to be able to do stuff that they haven’t done before,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

For more info
• To learn more about NDSU’s climbing wall, visit www.ndsu.edu/wellness/campus_recreation_intramural_sports/climbing_wall or call the Wellness Center at (701) 231-7390.
• To learn more about MSUM’s climbing wall, visit www.mnstate.edu/wellness/rockwall.aspx or call the Wellness Center at (218) 477-4300.