Rock to the top of this fitness route

Matt Hellman| Photo Editor
Houston freshman Lindsey Fahrenthold climbs Baylor’s rock wall in the Mclean Student Life Center.

By Travis Taylor

The McLane Student Life Center is offering students a unique way to keep off those pesky pounds by putting one hand in front of the other. And at 52 feet high, this fitness solution is hard to miss.

Located in the atrium of the McLane Student Life Center (SLC), Baylor’s rock wall, known as the ROCK, is available to students of all experience levels.

“It’s really fun, worth giving a shot and it’s free,” said Plano sophomore Nick Davis. A new member of the Student Life Center’s climbing staff, Davis helps with renting out climbing equipment, such as shoes and harnesses, as well as assisting climbers on the wall. Operated by Outdoor Adventure, a section of the Department of Campus Recreation.

“There are varying degrees of difficulty,” said Dallas senior Matt Collins, who has been a member of the climbing staff for two years. “We set stuff for people who have only climbed ladders to stuff that will challenge you.”

“All you have to do is come and climb,” Collins added.

There types of climbing you can do: top-rope climbing, the rock wall’s most popular activity, requires two people: a climber and a a belayer to anchor them by managing the slack of the climber’s rope; bouldering, a type of rope-less climbing with shorter but intense routes; and sport climbing, which involves only a climber, a harness, rope and hooks or anchor points that run to the top of the wall. Collins likened the different types of climbing to running: Bouldering is more of a sprint, while top roping is similar to a long-distance run.

“Sport climbing by its proper definition is that you climb with your rope and clip in as you go,” said Collins. “It’s more mental because you’re going to take a bigger fall and you have to clip in.”

To sport-climb at Baylor’s rock wall, extra training and a helmet are required, both of which are offered at the Student Life Center. Students who are looking to stay in shape will find the rock wall doesn’t leave many muscles unworked.

“It’s great for your back and your core,” said Davis, “and it’s great for finger strength, which doesn’t get worked a lot.”

But just like every exercise, Collins said, climbers can get better with experience.

“The more you do it, the more your body gets used to it,” said Collins.

But the rock wall isn’t the only thing Outdoor Adventure offers to keep students active. Outdoor Adventure also runs challenge courses, skill clinics and even the Baylor Marina located on University Parks Drive and the banks of the Brazos River.

Cody Schrank, Assistant Director for Outdoor Adventure, said most students are unaware of the opportunities that Outdoor Adventure provides.

“I think that it’s common for students to not know because it’s not something that they did in high school,” said Schrank. “There won’t be a better opportunity in life to access these things.”

Schrank said due to the fact that what most of what Outdoor Adventure does occurs outside of the McLane Student Life Center, it is difficult to get lots of students involved.

“It’s really easy to walk in the SLC, see the ROCK, and think ‘that’s Outdoor Adventure,” said Schrank.

According to Schrank, awareness is increasing. Use of the Marina, which offers canoe and kayak rentals, sand volleyball, a bicycle repair shop and stand-up paddleboards rentals, has increased from 1,000 students three years ago to over 5,500 during the 2011-2012 school year.

Outdoor Adventure also offers “Adventure Trips” throughout the year that include backpacking, climbing, kayaking and camping.

“We provide all the equipment and all the expertise,” said Schrank.

These trips are intended to make outdoor activities as available and as affordable as possible for Baylor students. Schrank said some guided trips elsewhere could run upwards of $150 dollars, while Outdoor Adventure offers trips for as low as $30 for students.

“You’ll have to pay for these things elsewhere,” said Schrank. “Why not try them out here?”

The purpose, Shrank said, is education. “Most of our programs, we want to teach people and educate them on how to do things,” said Schrank.

Outdoor Adventure has a number of skill clinics that teach backpacking, kayaking, and climbing skills for beginners.

For now, the rock is the still the most visible testament to Outdoor Adventure.

Daniel Ezell, who is pursuing a Master of Sports Management and who is also the manager of the rock wall, said new climbing routes are always being added and he is hoping to make bigger changes throughout the semester. Ezell said he encourages students to become belay certified, allowing them to climb with their friends without the aid of a rock wall staff member, by taking a belay certification course that is offered by Outdoor Adventure. Belay certification courses are offered Monday through Thursday from 4:00-5:30 PM and cost $5.

“Give it a try,” Ezell said. “Coming in, I never thought I would be a rock climber, but now it’s a way of life.”