Augustana Outdoor Program rock climbs indoors

A bright green climbing hold shaped like a devious octopus is just out of reach, taunting sophomore Sean Boland as he contemplated his chances of surviving this daring leap. Director of the Augustana Outdoor Program (AOP) Ryan Brown yelled from the floor below to use leverage in order to reach beyond what should be humanly possible. Boland leapt across the wall and successfully gripped the hold long enough for him to achieve a strong foothold. Brown cheers him on as Boland scales the rest of the wall.

The AOP hosted one of its many rock climbing events on Thursday, March 4 ,at Frontier Climbing and Fitness. The AOP hosts similar events at a variety of facilities throughout the Sioux Falls area.

“I think rock climbing brings a challenge to people,” Brown said. “It pushes them outside their comfort zone.”

Depending on the location, students have a chance to learn a variety of rock climbing skills: bouldering, scaling, belaying, etc. Rock climbing destinations vary because each facility has different benefits. When the weather is more predictable and conducive to climbing, students have the opportunity to climb cliff faces outdoors at places like the Palisades State Park. At Frontier, there are multiple levels of difficulty and types of climbing. 

“It’s a great sport for people of all different levels,” Brown said. “You can start with easy climbs, and you can move up to more challenging ones. There really is no limit to where you can go with it.”

At indoor places, students have to pay a fee, about $10, though AOP covers the rest of the admission costs. Some places such as Central Church do not charge an admission fee, and students can climb as long as they want.

Boland has attended multiple AOP rock climbing events. He said he enjoys “meeting everyone as well as getting a good workout in.” Boland said he is at a beginner skill level, though he has learned about the importance of “planning ahead.” Learning to think and strategize has been a skill Boland has applied outside of the sport as well.

“It’s fun,” Boland said. “It’s still challenging at parts, but there is still stuff where I feel like I got this and I know what I am doing.”

The AOP has been facilitating these events all year and has accumulated regular climbers. Students have the opportunity to learn more than just rock climbing. Many have expressed interest in learning how to belay and how to set up anchors at outdoor climbing events.

“We’ve really grown a core of students who are coming regularly in climbing,” Brown said. “[I have been] able to see them really grow in their skills and abilities and really take their climbing to the next level.”

With the variety of skill levels and variable times, Augustana students have the chance to experience something new while being active. Rock climbing creates an opportunity for students to move beyond their limits with the encouragement of faculty and peers. 

Boland pulled himself up at the top of the wall using the last green handhold. Feeling accomplished, he leaned back against his harness and let his weight carry him down slowly with the electric belay. On his way to the ground, Boland said he was already visualizing his next climb, focusing on the big picture.

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