Losing yourself in Rocks

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Throughout history, mankind has demonstrated a longing for perspective.


Vast overlooks and mountaintops bring clarity like little else can. Rock climbing serves this purpose for many people.


And Utah Valley has a growing collection of rock climbers with their own culture and lifestyle. Richard Harrison, employee at Hansen Mountaineering, described this culture with a few definitions. “A lot of the college students that rock climb in this area have adopted the Bohemian, dirt bag mentality and look,” Harrison said. “The ‘deadheads’ have a new generation in boulders.”


Harrison also talked about the many facets of people involved in the rock climbing realm. “In the real world, rock climbing culture involves mostly white middle class people. But it cuts across all socioeconomic status. You can meet the coolest people.”


Harrison has worked at the Hansen Mountaineering shop off and on since 1990, right after he discovered the world of rock climbing. Harrison was first introduced to repelling by friends, which then turned into rock climbing, and progressed into ice climbing and mountaineering.


“I was thinking that this scares me, and I wanna figure it out more,” Harrison said after his first exposure with climbing. “It’s like a disease, it’s progressive and takes hold of your mind.”


Rock climbing is typically divided into two different categories. Sport climbing involves ropes, harnesses and clips, which help scale tall rock faces. Trad climbing is another facet of sport climbing, but these climbers put in their own anchors that they clip in to, and they remove these anchors when they leave. Bouldering usually involves a large boulder or shorter rock face where holds and positions are demonstrated with a crash pad beneath to catch falls. There is also Deep Water Soloing which is like bouldering, except done over a large body of water so that you simply fall into the water instead of on a crash pad.


Ice climbing is a similar but a less traveled road of climbing. Ice climbing typically requires more equipment, and is limited to specific times of year. However, Utah is a prime spot for ice climbing with the cold temperatures and abundance of small waterfalls. Ice climbing involves using crampons on the boots and ice picks to scale up a frozen waterfall or ice face. There is also mixed climbing, which is a combination of climbing ice and rock.


“Ice climbing is a combination of strength and endurance, and it freaks your brain out because you are on a constantly changing medium,” Harrison said. “The mental game of ice climbing is a lot harder. I’m all about the thinking.” Part of ice climbing is watching the temperature, and learning to read the stability of ice based on its color.


People that get involved in any kind of climbing must remember the most important aspect- safety. “There is a difference between climbing and climbing safely,” said Harrison. “Anyone can climb. A monkey can climb.” Any experienced climber will advise the need to always be alert and attentive to keep safe, and to obtain a good understanding of the equipment and how it works.


The Hansen Mountaineering shop was started by and named after Doug Hansen in 1976, and they not only sell the equipment for climbing, but also teach the basics of climbing and use of the gear. Hansen Mountaineering functions as a training facility for those wanting to gain experience before tackling the bigger, more advanced outdoor rock faces.


Another place to visit for climbing instruction and practice is The Quarry located in northern Provo. The Quarry is the largest indoor climbing facility in Utah Valley with top rope climbing walls reaching up to 90 feet. The climbing routes are changed every six to eight weeks to keep climbers constantly progressing. The upstairs level of The Quarry is completely dedicated to bouldering.


Bryce Adair, a college student that dedicates his spare time to climbing, talked about what drew him into the climbing world. “I was introduced to climbing by my sister,” Adair said. “And my favorite part of climbing is being outside with good friends, and trying really hard at something, and progressing.”


Adair has been climbing for two-and-a-half years, and in that time found that the rock climbing crowd does indeed have its own unique culture. “Climbing culture is people who are very relaxed until they are on the rock, and then they are intense,” Adair said, who also introduced his wife to climbing when they began dating. “Climbers are kind of clicky, and the good ones are more like elitists. If you aren’t very good, you are considered a ‘gumby.’ But all climbers are very personable.”


With Utah home to some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, it is a perfect place to climb.


By Faith Heaton


Hansen Mountaineering

1799 N. State St. Orem

Hours: M-F 12 p.m.- 9 p.m.


The Quarry

2494 N. University Parkway Orem

Hours: Mon., Wed. 10 a.m.- 10 p.m.

Tues., Thurs. 6:00 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Fri. 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Sat. 9 a.m. – midnight