Climbing challenges students’ fears

Warmer weather and clearer skies provide the perfect opportunity to take advantage of outdoor activities. Those in search of a hobby should consider pursuing rock climbing. This activity requires a mixture of mental persistence and brute physical strength to overcome height and fear.

Johannesen_12“Climbing scares me 100 percent, which is why I think it’s so good for me to try,” Kaitlin O’Hara, a University alumna said. “Heights have always been one of my biggest fears, so it’s awesome to feel myself slowly get over it in such a direct way. I am able to push through the fear only because of my fellow climbers telling me I’m capable and because of the sheer adrenaline that pumps through your veins the entire time you’re on a wall.”

Climbing doesn’t just involve arms. Climbers also use their legs and feet to push off of the rock while using their arms to pull themselves up.

Beginners, hoping to advance in outdoor rock climbing, can utilize gym walls to improve technique and build strength. O’Hara first became involved in the sport through friends at Ozark Climbing gym.

“They held women’s clinics that helped May and I get into the sport without an intimidating environment,” O’Hara, who often climbs with fellow JBU alumna Rachel May, said. “It was very welcoming.”

Johannesen_5Climbing is both an individual and team sport. Although climbers challenge themselves to overcome rock or boulder, they also trust and rely on other climbers with belaying, dismounting after reaching the top and safety.

“I love that every single person in the climbing community thus far has been incredibly welcoming and warm to newcomers,” O’Hara said. “Everyone wants everyone to succeed. It’s not about competition amongst climbers, but more of collaboration. It’s a really beautiful community unlike any other sporting community that I’ve personally experienced.”

The four most important tools are gear, ropes, knots and safety. The basics of climbing gear include harness, rope, locking carabiner, spare carabiner and a descender. Climbers need to wear clothes that offer comfort and mobility as well as shoes fit for gripping the rock.

“It is really good cardio and exercise,” Matt Bowen, senior biblical and theological studies major who enjoys indoor and outdoor rock climbing, said. “There is such an intense feeling of accomplishment once you get to the very top, whether it’s just a bouldering wall or an actual rock face that you are climbing. You put so much effort and thought into one goal. When you make it to the top, it is a feeling like none other.”


With a number of places to rock climb across the state, this hobby is a great way to connect and meet new people.

“You can find a whole new community of people,” Isaac Weaver, senior communication major who mostly boulders at the gym, said. “You meet really diverse groups of people who are bold and like to exercise.”

Horseshoe Canyon is a world-recognized rock climbing destination in Arkansas, thanks to the quality and quantity of routes for climbing. Their certified guides provide all gear and safety instructions. This ranch is located in Jasper, Ark., just a 2-hour drive from Siloam Springs.

“The risk is totally a huge part of the overall excitement,” O’Hara said. “There’s nothing like being suspended 60 feet in the air with no choice but to climb further up and further on. I’m not even a huge adrenaline junkie myself, but there is just a certain thrill to climbing that is completely contagious.”