Local Mountains boast rock-climbing opportunities

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    By Matthew Pruitt

    Veteran rock climbers come to Utah every year to experience what BYU students can enjoy daily in Provo”s backyard.

    “There”s a lot of people who move here to [rock climb],” said Austin Booth, an employee at the Utah Office of Tourism who said he enjoys rock climbing.

    Rock Canyon has become a convenient spot for BYU students to go rock climbing with increasing climbing opportunities each year.

    “In the past few years there”s been a lot of new bolts put up there,” said Joe Pate, a sophomore at UVSC from Provo. “There”re so many places to climb up in Rock Canyon.”

    Outdoor climbers use bolts hammered into holes drilled into the rock to secure their ropes.

    In Rock Canyon, bolts are hammered into rock walls composed of some of the best limestone for climbing in the state, according to www.rockclimbing.com, a Web site that outlines climbing routes and locations all over the world.

    “It”s a great place because of the locality,” said Karen Froerer, an experienced climber and employee at Hansen Mountaineering, a store in Orem that specializes in selling climbing gear. “It”s super close.”

    Rock Canyon is east of the LDS temple and about a five-minute drive from BYU.

    The short commute to go rock climbing outdoors not only saves time, but, with rising fuel costs, money. Climbing outdoors, as opposed to climbing at indoor gyms, can offset other expenses as well.

    “I like rock climbing outdoors better because it”s easier on the wallet,” said Jacob Riddle, 22, a junior from Oregon studying biology.

    There are several local climbing gyms in Utah Valley that often draw large crowds, but entrance and rental fees can cost up to $16 per person.

    Indoor rock gyms typically use synthetic hand and foot holds for climbers to hang on to while scaling the walls.

    “[Climbing outdoors] is better because it”s real,” Riddle said. “It”s not silly fake holds or whatever.”

    Along with the reality of the climb also comes a real danger. At indoor rock gyms, padded floors cushion falls and the hand holds are often easier to grasp than real rock. But in the outdoors when climbers fall, they often land on jagged rocks.

    “Remember, safety comes first,” said Randall Shelman, 25, an avid rock climber from Oregon who recently moved to Provo to be near Utah”s many rock climbing locations. “Go with somebody that has a little experience, don”t go beyond your limits and just have fun.”

    Shelman said he remembers going climbing in the Philippines last January where he met some pro climbers who were cautious about their safety.

    “Most of the really good climbers are really, really cautious,” he said. “They”re even more cautious of safety than most of the amateurs.”

    Shelman, who has been climbing for years, has encountered a few risky situations himself.

    “I”ve had rocks come down on me before, and I”ve had an anchor [where the rope is attached to the rock] pull loose,” he said.

    Wearing equipment, such as helmets and climbing shoes, can help prevent accidents and injuries.

    “The most common way to get hurt is when you”re setting up top ropes,” said Froerer, 26, a BYU graduate student in the integrative biology department studying wildlife and wildlands conservation. “Wear good shoes and a helmet when you”re setting up top ropes.”

    Much can be done to ensure safety while climbing, including having a competent belay (the person who holds the rope at the bottom) and checking to ensure equipment is in good condition; however, sometimes accidents occur even with precautions.

    “Worst case scenario is you take a bad fall,” Shelman said. “The important thing is to check for serious injuries, especially the back and the neck, and don”t create further injuries by movement.”

    Rock climbers agree climbing can be a fun sport if you look out for your safety.

    “I like rock climbing because it gives a pretty gnarly adrenaline rush and it”s challenging,” Riddle said. “You just need to have gear and someone who knows what they”re doing.”

    Rock Canyon has climbs generally rated between 5.7 and 5.12 on the Yosemite Decimal System, which classifies the difficulty of climbs based on technicality and risk factors.

    “[The Yosemite Decimal System] typically starts with 5.5 going up to the hardest climb, which is 5.15 right now,” Froerer said.

    Many of the climbs in Rock Canyon are about 100 feet tall and can be climbed with a rope that is between 50 and 70 meters.

    Inexperienced climbers can practice and take training courses at local indoor rock gyms, such as The Quarry, to learn the technicalities of climbing and gain certifications.

    “Beyond the technical aspects there”s definitely environmental ethics of climbing,” Froerer said. “Don”t be bolt happy, and no weeding, which is pulling out vegetation when you”re climbing.”

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    Directions: Rock Canyon is east of the LDS temple in Provo. Take North Temple Drive east until you get to the trailhead.

    For more information on the multiple climbing routes in Rock Canyon, visit http://www.rockclimbing.com/routes/listArea.php?AreaID=1

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