Climbing to New Heights

Tess van Straaten tries indoor rock climbing

By Tess van Straaten

I’m one of those people that make New Year’s resolutions — lots of resolutions — and I almost always keep them. But as I stare up at the massive 55-foot rock climbing tower at the University of Victoria, I’m starting to have my doubts about this one.

“For a lot of people it’s mental — you have the strength and you have the ability to do it, it’s just pushing off your feet and taking that step,” explains Bruce Allen of the Peninsula Co-op Climbing Centre, which is open to the public.

I’m still not totally convinced I can do it — and for good reason. The climbing tower at UVic’s Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) is the tallest of any Canadian university. And it’s very steep. But my 14-year-old son, Tyler, can’t wait to get started and after a quick orientation and safety lesson, he’s strapped into his harness and hooked onto the safety rope.

Allen, who will be our belayer, holds the other end of the rope and will make sure Tyler doesn’t fall if he misses a footing. But my son, who is strong and fearless, quickly scrambles up the wall. Before we know it, he’s reached the top and Allen lowers him back down.

Trying to buy myself some more time, I ask climbing centre coordinator Sebastian Powell what’s the most difficult part about rock climbing. Before he can answer, Tyler pipes up saying, “It will definitely be heights for you, mom!” He’s right. I’ve always been afraid of heights, which is one of the reasons I’m doing this.

“For some people it’s heights, for some people it’s finger strength and for others it’s power,” explains Powell, who’s been climbing for 23 years.

“There are so many things that make it hard — that’s why it’s so challenging but that’s also what makes it so rewarding and it’s never boring.”

Telling myself I don’t have to go all the way to the top, I start climbing. With hundreds of holds, there are lots of options — some easier than others. They’re colour-coded so Allen tells me to stick to the easier colours. Before long, I’m half way up the wall and wondering if I should come down.

“You’re almost there,” Allen shouts up to encourage me. “Keep going!”

Realizing how high up I already am I decide I might as well conquer the tower. If I don’t, I know I’ll never hear the end of it from Tyler but I also want to be able to say I did it. Reaching the top and looking down was an amazing feeling. It’s easy to see why the centre, which also has a 14-foot bouldering wall (no ropes or belayer needed), averages 80 to 120 people a day. “Rock climbing is one of the fastest-growing sports and being included in the 2020 Olympics has probably helped,” Powell says. “Bouldering has really increased in popularity in the last few years and people love it because you don’t need a partner and the terrain is more varied.”

I won’t be headed to the Olympics anytime soon, but I’ll probably be back for another climb.

Just Posted

Let Downchild chase those blues away

Donnie Walsh and company celebrate the band’s 50th year with an Oct. 18 concert in Victoria

HOROSCOPES: It’s all about you, Libra and Scorpio

Monday astrologer Georgia Nicols serves up her best bets for the coming month

Burton Cummings’ Up Close and Alone tour offers more intimate rock ‘n roll setting

Canadian rocker playing two sold-out shows at Mary Winspear Centre in October

Catch the Motown sound on stage in Oak Bay

Dave Dunnet Community Theatre hosting Motown Magic on Oct. 3

Scottish flavours abound at the McPherson during Skerryvore’s return

Acclaimed Celtic rock fusion band here Oct. 6; whisky tasting, acoustic pre-show added

VIDEO: ‘Thrones,’ ‘Fleabag’ top Emmys

Billy Porter makes history as first openly gay black man to win best drama-series acting Emmy

Set your alarm! Night Shift Halloween tix on sale Friday morning

Royal BC Museum’s adult-only costume event expected to sell out quickly

Canadian author Graeme Gibson, partner of Margaret Atwood, dies at age 85

Gibson remembered for putting his words into action for both cultural and environmental causes

Trailer released for Jason Momoa TV series filmed on Vancouver Island

‘See’ will debut on Apple’s new streaming service on Nov.1

Victoria bookstore looking to earn a place in the record books

Russell Books still collecting Guiness World Records books from public for massive tower

Eddie Money, ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’ singer, dies at 70

The rock star recently announced he had stage 4 esophageal cancer

Cross-cultural flamenco production tells personal story through dance, music

Indian, Spanish influences seen in Nritya, coming Sept. 26 to Glenlyon Norfolk School theatre

$9.8 million announced for B.C. arts groups by province

BC Arts Council to distribute 394 grants across more than 50 communities

Most Read