Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scaling the walls of mental strength

The rope tightens and squeaks with the shift of weight. Below, shouts echo through his ringing ears. One more push and he is to the top. Chalk dust settles on his lip, trembling his limbs begin to give way to gravities unforgiving pull. With one swift lunge his fingers reach for the florescent knob and slips. A jolting fall and the rope snaps. For Michael Blair, this climb has come to an end.

Hangar 18 off of Stowell Street in Upland California is known for testing not only physical strength but mental strength as well. Set in a renovated airplane hangar south of the city’s downtown area, this old venue has been completely gutted and transformed into a rock climbers El Dorado.

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up or across natural or artificial rock faces in order to reach the summit of the foundation. The mental and physical demand aids in teaching climber’s strength, endurance, agility and balance in the event. But for me, climbing is a mental release, it keeps my limbs and mind focused on the climb so that I may in my own way de-stress. With a day pass for adults only $16 and $11 for children, there is no excuse to neglect this engaging activity.

While many hear rock climbing and think of ropes, gear, and a few people scaling a mountain, there are numerous ways to tackle this intense sport.

“I got into rock climbing because one of my close friends was always raving about it. He finally convinced me to go one day even though I was skeptical and a little nervous,” said Michael Blair of Azusa California. “ But, after the first climb, I started really enjoying the challenge and I had to have more.”

The large echoing hangar is filled with the shouts and conversation of the climbers within. The walls are covered with multicolored trails and pathways that each climber may choose to take. Bouldering walls scale the north end, this is where climbers may climb short, low routes without the use of a safety rope. The true test of physical strength is evident when the climbers run at the rock face and scale it as if they are spiderman.

The south wall holds the aid and traditional climbing paths where climbers partner with gear and employee aid to scale the tough ascend. My weight shifts as I begin to climb the wall. My hands and feet trace the paths of the purple terrain, each knob a test of my inner strength. The rope tightens as the staff member pulls and applies weight to keep me suspended in the air. It is not a race to the top, decision and acute hand placement is keen. One foot and then the other. The top is near. My senses heighten, everything seems like it is in slow motion. I leap for the last purple piece and I catch it. I slap the top of the roof and begin ascending down.

Because rock climbing is a physical sport, jumping straight into advanced climbing is not recommended. Each path is geared to ease one into the climb and once you do the first, the thrill and addiction will keep you coming back. I find myself constantly thinking about a climb, how I might approach it differently, which I will do next. Each visit I apply my meditations and tackle the rock again.

“It is fun, challenging, and a different kind of sport. Anyone can do it and it’s great for just having a good time climbing or pushing yourself in a workout,” Nick Robles of Ontario said.

Robles has been climbing for more than five years. As a cancer survivor, he takes every opportunity to use his body in exercise and physical adventure.

“Rock climbing is a great workout because it pushes your body to overcome what it’s not used to,” Robles said. “ I find myself pushing my strength past what I think it can do, I find power in the climb.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, rock climbing is not only beneficial for weight control, cholesterol, and blood pressure, but can also relieve stress. The climb enhances muscular tension and builds strength and endurance while also enhancing problem solving and memory.

“Climbing helps me unwind after a long day and also keeps me in the best shape,” Blair said. “Even on the craziest of days, climbing helps me to take my mind off of my life.”

www.climbhangar18.com or 909-931-5991

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