Rock climbing challenges mind, body for those of all ages

By Carolyn Smith

Special to the Arizona Daily Wildcat

My foot is stuck in a crevice, the other foot dangling over miles of boulders stacked on top of each other.

Looking up I can see the top of Mount Lemmon towering over me, with the flat valley of Tucson shrinking in the distance below.

My trembling hands threaten to fail me. I think of the possible 500-foot drop.

This climb up one of Mount Lemmon's scenic spots was exhausting but well worth the energy.

Several of us scrambled over rocks in a desperate attempt to reach the top without falling. The thrill and excitement was only preliminary to the awesome feeling once we reached the top.

Rock climbing is an ideal sport for the adventurous and thrill-seeking individual. It is cost-effective, stress reducing, physically challenging and mentally challenging.

"Rock climbing is a passion of mine... It relieves stress and enhances flexibility and strength, and you don't have to wait in line to do it," said John C. Harrison, a cook at Gentle Ben's Brewing Company.

Harrison said Southern Arizona has great places for climbing, especially Mount Lemmon, where climbers can spend the day on the roche and at night stay at one of the many campgrounds available.

Bill R. Stanley, an employee at Summit Hut on University Avenue, said rock climbing is a great recreational sport, regardless of one's age.

Summit Hut offers climbing equipment and apparel, such as shoes, clothing, rope and other accessories.

People who have never climbed before should always go with someone who knows what they're doing. Climbing necessities are a good guide and a good pair of shoes, Harrison said.

The equipment is fairly expensive, with shoes ranging in price from $45 to $130, and guided instruction runs anywhere from $20 to $100 per person, he said.

"You need to be able to trust yourself enough so you could hang upside down, like in an overhang, and not be sacred," he said.

Gillian Smith, an anthropology senior, said rock climbing in the past seemed like a men's sport only.

With the new popularity of climbing, she said, more women are getting a chance to seek the enjoyment and thrill of the experience.

For new climbers who are wary of the outdoors, Tucson offers indoor climbing centers, where one can spend the day climbing for $20. Rocks and Ropes, located on 330 S. Toole Ave., offers a summer camp as well as monthly specials.

Harrison said he knows few people who have not enjoyed the experience. He said anyone with some degree of fearlessness can easily become a rock climbing addict.

"You feel invincible when you climb a rock and get to the top. It's a natural high," Harrison said.

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