Rock climbing becomes increasingly popular at Bethel

February 21, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Students spend their Friday nights at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul

Sports | Jenny Hudalla

Rock climbing becomes increasingly popular at Bethel

Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Ashley Ancona.

It’s getting to be the time of year when Bethel students get tired of their go-to Friday night plans. Chipotle runs? Too many calories. Movies at the AMC? Too expensive. Trying to chisel a life-size ice sculpture of Jay Barnes in front of his house? Too creepy. 

But for sophomore Taylor Bothun, spending his Friday nights rock climbing is just right. 

“I love climbing because it challenges me physically and mentally, and it’s a great way to hang out with friends,” Bothun said. “When I’m climbing, it’s like everything else that I might be dealing with falls away. It’s just you and the wall.”

Bothun goes to Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, a rock climbing facility that boasts over 18,000 square feet of climbing area. The best part? Climbers who bring a valid student ID card after 5 p.m. on Fridays receive half off the regular $15 weekend price.

Although many Bethel students have yet to discover this refreshing alternative to dinner and a movie, Bothun said it is becoming more and more popular on campus. As a freshman RA in Bodien, he has taken his floor and received several requests to go again. He even created a Facebook page for Bethel students who want to learn more about the sport.

Sophomore Ashley Ancona also climbs at Vertical Endeavors and has partnered with Bothun in the past. Having participated in the sport since she was a child, Ancona would like to see the formation of a rock-climbing club during her time at Bethel. 

“Climbing is a great way to build bonds and trust with other people,” she said. “I think it's a great way for the Bethel community to stay active and have fun.” 

Vertical Endeavors offers hundreds of climbing routes rated on a scale of difficulty. As they move from beginner to advanced, the terrain becomes rougher and the walls have fewer handholds that are harder to grasp. The facility also houses several bouldering caves, where climbers abandon their ropes and harnesses for the thrill of relying simply on brute strength and technique. 

According to Bothun, rock climbing is about repetition and requires both mental and physical strength. A strong grip, forearm endurance and the ability to see the route and shift one’s weight are all helpful skills to have, but Bothun said many of these qualities come naturally through practice. 

“It’s really about the people you climb with,” he said. “It’s about community. Climbers are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I've met complete strangers, and five minutes later, my life is in their hands.”

Although they enjoy being able to climb indoors during the winter months, both Bothun and Ancona are looking forward to getting outdoors when the weather warms up. Even though he is relatively new to the sport, Bothun hopes to climb competitively after he returns from his fall semester in Spain, a country that offers some of the best natural rock climbing in the world.

“It’s amazing to go climbing outside,” Ancona said. “It almost seems as if God made [the rocks] for us to be able to climb and goof around on.”

Inside or outside, Ancona said rock climbers have one leg up over other athletes: regardless of ability level, beginners and experts alike can climb, laugh and have a good time together, all while getting exercise and building trust. 

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