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(Artificial) Rock On

By phil villarreal
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 4, 1999
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Nicholas Valenzuela
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Climbing apparatus in the Rocks and Ropes Gym on 330 S. Toole Ave. is a haven for rock climbers in Tucson. It is open seven days a week and provides lessons for rock climbing novices

by phil villarreal

A good way to get a workout is to grab some friends, strap up in ropes, go out to the mountains, and go at it for three to four hours.

Rock climbing, that is.

Problem is, this is Tucson, the land of not-too-many cliffs. And even if there were cliffs, it would be too hot outside to climb them.

This town has too much sun and not enough dangerous cliffs. Luckily, Rocks and Ropes has answers to both of those problems. And the cliffs aren't even dangerous.

Rocks and Ropes is located downtown, on 330 S. Toole Avenue, which is an oxymoron, because no people who could be considered "tools" can survive for more than five minutes inside the joint.

Rocks and Ropes is a home to indoor rock climbing. It's actually a warehouse but not a boring warehouse. It's more like a party house, full of rock climbing madness.

Rocks and Ropes is open seven days a week. For $25, climbers get a lesson, plus all the gear they need. The $25 gets you in all day. Climbers can do their thing until their arms are ready to fall off.

It's owned by a UA man, as well. Jason Mullins is a climbing enthusiast who graduated from this lovely campus in 1996 with a major in psychology and a minor in business. Mullins is Rocks and Ropes' co-manager and part-owner.

Mullins helped build the business, literally. He assisted in its construction in 1992 in exchange for a free membership.

Now he is helping spread the word about indoor climbing. According to Mullins, everybody can be a rock climber.

"It's not one type of person in particular that climbs here," Mullins said. "It's everybody from toddlers on up. We give lessons in the same day to four-year-old kids and 70-year-olds to college students. For students, it's a really good bonding experience."

So here's how it works: You drive through the maze that is downtown Tucson until you find Rocks & Ropes, you go in, you give your $25. You learn your lesson (this is a lecture not to be treated like that of a normal class - if you don't listen, you're likely to fall and crack your head open), then you grab your rented gear.

Then it's time to climb.

The setup inside Rocks and Ropes is awe-inspiring. The large pseudo-rock cliffs stand on the inside perimeter. The cliffs come complete with overhangs and holds.

Climbers are strapped into harnesses connected to ropes. As one person climbs, someone else always has a hold of the rope. This ensures that if a novice climber tries to make like Spiderman and try and race up a difficult route without regard for his strength or skill, he doesn't plummet to the ground. This provides two benefits:

1. The climber doesn't fall to an untimely death, and
2. The climber has to look like a dangling moron when he falls off the wall. His friend can dangle the climber for as long as he pleases before he decides it's time to let the idiot back down.

Plus, it serves as a safety feature for accidents. Mullins says that Rocks and Ropes is a safe place to climb.

The holds are placed and color-coded into different routes, which vary on degrees of difficulty. The hardest technical short climb in the world today is rated 5.15. Rocks and

Ropes has routes that are rated as hard as 5.14.

Passes are good for the entire day.

"Most people wear out after about three hours," Mullins said. "They can't feel their arms anymore."