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Get up to the top

JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
John Farris, an agriculture junior, scales a climbing wall at Rocks and Ropes yesterday. Rocks and Ropes is a unique social environment which allows up to 60 people to climb at one time.
By Sarah Wadsworth
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Activities for the outdoor impaired

Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment derived from perching atop a towering summit you have just climbed with the sheer strength of your own body.

Unfortunately, all too often this feeling of euphoria is the result of hours, potentially days, of preparation, costly equipment and a very real sense of danger.

Should you be unable to afford the time and equipment it would take to climb a rocky cliff, or for those of you who would feel more at ease with climbing in a controlled environment, there is Rocks and Ropes.

Located at 330 S. Toole Ave., Rocks and Ropes is an indoor climbing gym and virtual haven for novices and experts alike, offering 30-foot-high walls and 75 different routes, all rated so that you can gauge your skill.

For climbers coming for the first time, plan to bring a friend, as climbing is a partner sport, and expect to spend about a half hour in a hands-on orientation, provided for $10 and taught by an experienced staffmember.

The orientation will teach new climbers the "ropes," essentially how to wear a harness, how to tie the correct knot, proper procedures, how to belay your partner and so forth.

"It's a fantastic experience," said Greg Rupp, Rocks and Ropes manager. "You don't need to be an expert by any means to get the enjoyment out of it as well as the physical workout."

Physical workout it is.

After your orientation you and your partner get free reign of the gym, you can do the walls in any order or climb in any style that works for you- so long as you are climbing safely.

"Because there are shorter distances to climb, it is more gymnastic, more move-oriented, how you twist and turn your body, rather than overly strength-oriented," said Rupp. "You can be somebody who can't do two pull-ups and you can climb at high levels."

A sport that centers on balance, rather than sheer strength, rock climbing is an ideal sport for women who may not have an over-abundance of upper body muscle.

By clinging to the wall you can use your legs to push off and up, as opposed to grabbing above you and pulling yourself up, which could be tricky for some who are upper-body-strength impaired.

While one person is climbing, the partner stays at the bottom, attached to a rope that will hold the climber if they fall, and will ease the climber down to the ground once their climb is finished.

Not only does this partner action make the climb much more safe, it also inspires feelings of Spiderman-ish skills as you zoom back to the ground.

When compared to outdoor mountain climbing, scaling the walls in an indoor gym comes up as more convenient, time efficient and less dangerous.

"The climbs inside are considerably shorter," said Rupp. "If you go outside, you would need to get yourself in precarious positions to get yourself a rope to climb on."

Rocks and Ropes also offers a unique social environment as there can be up to 60 people climbing at once, offering observers and potential climbers insight on technique and advice.

Rocks and Ropes is the oldest standing climbing gym in the country, and is an anomaly in Tucson as far as commercial climbing gyms go, according to Rupp.

In addition to being a different way to work out, the climbing gym can also be a unique spot to test the waters.

"It's a great date, I'll tell you that much," said Rupp. "It's a nice situation to get to know somebody that you don't know very well."

Rocks and Ropes offers student nights on Monday and Friday where admission is reduced from $8 to $5.

On average, the cost to climb is $15 ($25 for first-timers) and includes admission and equipment - should you fall in love with the facility, there are also membership options available.

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