Learning the Ropes

Rock climbing, whether in a gym or the great outdoors, provides a popular outlet for Oklahomans.

It’s not just about going up. It’s exploring the inaccessible … going places no one has been before, experiencing views that haven’t been seen.

The sport of rock climbing encourages exploration and pushes you to your limits. While there is no single reason that leads someone to start rock climbing, it does drive participants to face fears and solve problems.

“Almost every climber has a different reason for pursuing the sport,” says Caleb Klugh, assistant manager at Climb Tulsa. “The mental and physical challenges of climbing, the community [and] the lifestyle all attract and capture climbers.”

Climbing isn’t easy, even with a harness. You have to use your own strength, balance and coordination to work your way up to the top of a wall or precipice.

“Despite how it looks, climbing is not as simple as doing pull-ups,” Klugh says. “It requires a high level of body awareness, coordinated with situation-dependent pull and push strength to complete every move. It forces the climber to be constantly assessing their position and balance and using their own muscle power to adjust their body.”

Joining an indoor climbing gym is the easiest and safest way to start. It offers a semi-controlled environment with opportunities to learn from instructors, guides and experienced climbers. Klugh advises knowing your limits and always checking your gear and that of your partner.

Photo by Josh New

Bryan Prater, general manager of Summit Climbing in Oklahoma City, agrees on the importance of safety checks. He also encourages beginners to take it slow to avoid fatigue.

“People assume you need a huge amount of upper body strength, so they will grab as high as they can and basically do a pull-up,” Prater says. “They’ll do that motion over and over, but if you’re climbing a 60-foot wall and doing 100 pull-ups, you’re going to get tired really quickly.”

More experienced climbers take their skills to the great outdoors.

“I’ve always enjoyed hiking and being outside,” says Drew Nevius, a Broken Arrow resident and 9-year climber. “Climbing outside gives me a chance to be in nature.”

Mason Mayhall, an OKC resident and 4-year climber, says he can rarely be found in a climbing gym. He lives for the adventure that outdoor rock climbing provides.

“The Wichita Mountains are my go-to,” he says. “I find myself there as often as I can to escape the city.”

Mayhall and Nevius agree that acquiring basic techniques and knowledge in a gym is key to beginning your adventure.

“Learn the terminology and knots,” Mayhall says. “Keep pushing yourself and you’ll be happy you did when you start climbing outside.”

Anyone planning to pursue climbing should buy a chalk bag, climbing shoes, harness, ropes and a belay setup. If you’re interested in learning the ropes – pun intended – you can visit one of several climbing gyms in metropolitan Tulsa or OKC.

Great outdoor climbing routes are found in the Wichita Mountains, Quartz Mountain State Park, Robbers Cave State Park and Tulsa’s Chandler Park.

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