Bouldering: learning to crank it up a knotch


One normally wouldn’t mix a fear of heights with rock climbing. Willis Knapp has made a life of it.

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and scrambling around,” Knapp said. “I’m scared of heights, so what kept me going was wanting to deal with fear and knowing that some of that was irrational. … I just love climbing.”

Knapp is the general manager of The Quarry, a local rock climbing gym in Provo, and has been climbing since the early 1990s.

“I think that rock climbing is safer than driving,” he said. “It’s certainly a sport that has inherent risk, but if you’re smart you can truly minimize that risk.”

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Knapp said that for others who may have a fear of heights, bouldering offers a fun way to  push your physical limits, while still staying close to the ground.

Bouldering originally developed with mountain climbers on multi-day climbs. During downtime or on rest days, climbers would practice moves on literal boulders. Today, bouldering typically involves making a few short moves while never being more than 15 feet off the ground.

“The thing about it now is that it’s fairy low to the ground,” Knapp said. “I think a lot of people like that. You can really push your physical strength and really test your physical ability in a short series of just a few moves.”

All you need is a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag.

Over the past two weeks, workers at The Quarry have been working overtime revamping the gyms bouldering area in preparation for the annual Crank bouldering competition which occurred last week.

“We close [bouldering] down for a week,” Knapp said. “We take every single hold down off the wall and clean those, but we buy lots of new holds so everything’s brand new. It creates a lot of excitement because now everything’s new.”

Taylor Frampton, 23, the coach for Quarry’s youth climbing team, said he doesn’t see why anyone wouldn’t like climbing.

“It’s climbing … there’s no reason not to [like it],” he said. “Climbing’s the best. You’re able to push yourself and be able to try harder and harder moves. It’s just a blast.”

Bobby Boland, 25, a BYU student who works at the Quarry, said he loves the sense of community that forms with the climbers.

“Everyone here’s friends,” Bolland said. “That doesn’t mean everyones been friends for a long time but … everyone’s friendly enough that you can make friends the first day — especially girls, by the way. It’s great when girls come.”

Knapp said climbing is for anyone willing to try, with no age limit. The Quarry even has a youth climbing team with climbers ages 9 to 16 years old.

Cammi Mitchell, 11, from Orem isn’t as inexperienced of a climber as her age might suggest — she’s been climbing for 5 years.

“It started out with my cousin in it,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to try it and then I never stopped.”

In the end, Knapp said climbing is about pitting yourself against the climb and overcoming it.

“It’s there,” he said. “Somebody should climb it.”


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