Monday, July 22, 2019

Cool Classes: Climbing

SLCC student Rachael Mackay reaches for her next handhold.

Andraya Cortez has her sights set on law school, but until then she’s conquering a few fears, like her fright of heights. What better way to do that than enroll in a climbing class at Salt Lake Community College?

Cortez, 22, worried a lot at first about the integrity of foot holds or reliability of her harness. She started slow with bouldering and worked her way up to scaling high walls that require ropes to safely ascend and descend. Her fears have diminished with each climb. “I sweat a lot,” she says. “I work out really hard, and then I go home sore. But I feel great because I did a good job.”

The Front's David Farkas offers advice to SLCC student Andraya Cortez.

Cortez and more than 30 other SLCC students are signed up this summer for climbing classes at The Front in Salt Lake City. The college also offers the same courses through Momentum in Sandy and the Dimple Dell Recreation Center. Students receive one credit for successful completion of the class, which for many fulfills a degree requirement through the college’s Lifelong Wellness program.

David Farkas, The Front’s adult program manager, and other staffers take students through the different stages of learning how to climb. Bouldering. How to tie a knot for belaying. Top roping. The best, most efficient ways to move and place hands or feet. “You don’t have to be a strong person,” says Farkas. “But you need to know how to use the strength you have efficiently.”

Farkas is encouraged that SLCC offers Rock Climbing 1 and 2 so that more people in a community where climbing is popular can learn the correct movement and technical skills to remain safe while doing what they love. “A little knowledge can be dangerous,” he says about trying to casually learn through friends. “I applaud the college for joining with us in giving people the chance to move safely the first time around.”

SLCC students tackle a high wall during climbing class.

Henrick Papritz is taking some cool classes at SLCC, like Intro to Nanotechnology, but so far nothing like climbing. The future astronaut – at least that’s his dream – had only climbed a few times prior to the class at The Front. “I really liked it,” says Papritz, 19. “So, this just sounded fun. And it’s awesome.”

Alec Anderson could no longer afford to attend a four-year university when he enrolled at SLCC, where he is completing his general education courses before transferring to Brigham Young University – he might major in computer science or game development. The 23-year-old has developed some tendonitis in his elbows from the class, but so far, he says, it’s been worth it.

Anderson takes turns climbing and belaying inside on a hot June day with Rachael Mackay, the youngest in the group at 16 and a student at Itineris Early College High School. While at SLCC, Mackay, who loves to travel, plans on studying anthropology or tourism. She picked up the climbing bug from an older brother. “Although I already knew the basics,” says the youngest of six siblings, “they went over it pretty well. I enjoy seeing the other students improving.”

SLCC students take time for a little bouldering without ropes.