Climbers ‘Rock On’ in St. Paul

The Center for Outdoor Adventure held its annual rock climbing competition Saturday.

Annie Arens began rock climbing three weeks ago. Though she was trying not to throw up as she scaled the high climbing wall, her love of the sport surpasses any fear of heights or embarrassment.

The Center for Outdoor Adventure held its ninth-annual rock climbing competition, Rock On, Saturday in the St. Paul Gymnasium.

Thirty three climbers participated in the event, which included intermediate, novice and women’s categories.

Mitch Hoffman, director of COA, began climbing 13 years ago while in college.

“You can have as much fun as a beginner as you can as an expert,” he said.

While Rock On was a competition, the atmosphere was social and laid back, with rock music playing in the background.

Charlie Elverson, who came in fourth at the intermediate level, said the competition was more of a fun event and that he has little interest in the seriousness of professional rock climbing competitions.

Joking around was more prevalent than the usual intense concentration found at competitions – the climbers were friends more than they were competitors.

Climbers received points based on the difficulty of the climbing route.

The competition was based on both top rope climbing -where climbers are held by ropes while scaling a higher wall – and bouldering: shorter climbs without rope support.

“Different kinds of people are better at different kinds of rock climbing,” Elverson, a first-year environmental science student, said, noting there are different techniques involved with bouldering.

Arens, a medical student, found bouldering to be especially difficult because it was more technical and required more strength.

Arens placed fourth in the women’s competition, and said there are several physical and mental benefits to climbing.

“It’s nice because it involves balance, toning and problem solving,” she said.

Alex Skogen, biology first-year, has been rock climbing for about a year. She said she loves how personal the sport is.

“It’s only you and the wall,” she said.

Skogen said the sport is more popular among men, who are built stronger than women, but women’s smaller bodies can be advantageous at times.

Despite beliefs that rock climbing is a dangerous activity, Hoffman said the sport is generally safer than most gymnasium sports.

The majority of injuries come from stressing muscles, he said, adding he considers it to be a lifetime sport.

While February weather prevents Minnesota climbers from venturing beyond indoor climbing walls, the Midwest provides several outdoor locations.

Taylors Falls, Red Wing, the North Shore and Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin are most popular among local rock climbers.

Phil Alvey, aerospace engineering sophomore and COA staff member, said he began rock climbing about eight years ago when his dad took him on climbing trips.

Yosemite National Park and the Black Hills have amazing sites and views for rock climbing, he said.