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Rock Climbing at Metro Rock: November 2015

Rock climbing is my favorite single-day Adventure Club trip! It's one of our few indoor trips, but the levels of adventure, excitement, and new opportunities are still pretty high. Metro Rock in Everett, MA has been our gracious host for many years, and their ever-changing challenges never disappoint.

This year, we took more students than we typically do, and as a result, we changed the way we use the space at Metro Rock. We divided into two large groups. One group practiced top-rope climbing in small groups with 3 students to each teacher chaperone, while the other group divided into two smaller groups to practice climbing using auto-belays, bouldering, and attempting to cross the slack-line challenge.

Top Rope Climbing This is the most common way we use the walls and gym space at Metro Rock. In this activity, one student wears a harness and a teacher uses a combination of safety knots to tie climbing rope to the harness. This rope goes up and over a pulley, and the opposite end is fed through a belay device that clips securely to the teacher's harness. The belay device feeds rope into and out of a clip. Held in one position, a teacher can carefully feed rope through as a climber ascends or descends. Held in another position, a teacher can "brake" the rope so that the climber doesn't move up or down.

Students took turns climbing walls in varying degrees of difficulty. The walls are covered with holds that are arranged in courses by Metro Rock staff. Climbers use their hands and feet to maneuver up, down, and across the walls. Some students were proud to make it just a few feet off the ground, and their groups celebrated trying new things and conquering fears! Other students mastered the practice walls and were ready to move up to more challenging courses. Regardless of their height off the ground, all students made us proud with their gravity-defying efforts!

Auto-Belay Metro Rock has a few auto-belay courses set up around the gym. This devices allow climbers to use the walls without a second person belaying for them on the ground. Instead of a pulley, the climbing rope feeds into an automatic coiling system. As climbers move up the walls, the system pulls in and contains the rope. If the climber falls or lets go of the wall, their increased weight on the line signals to the auto-belay device to slowly let the rope back out. The climber gently descends to the ground to try again or trade off with another climber. Our students loved using these devices, because it enabled more climbers at a time. Metro Rock smartly arranges a few devices together in the practice area so that one person can easily supervise multiple climbers.

Bouldering Bouldering is a different type of climbing that doesn't use ropes or harnesses at all. Climbers maneuver courses that are lower in height off the ground and often have more side-to-side motions. Courses for bouldering always have "crash pads," which are thick foamy mats, beneath them in case a climber falls. This type of climbing can be very difficult for many climbers because it shifts your center of gravity in strange new ways. Nevertheless, Banneker Adventurers are always happy to give this new activity a try, and some find a skill they never knew they had!

Slack Line Stretched tightly between two poles at the back of the gym is Metro Rock's slack line. This nylon line, which is about 3 inches wide and suspended about 18 inches above a crash pad, gives users an opportunity to practice balance and careful foot placement. Beginners can use a sliding rope to provide support as they attempt to cross from one pole to another. Our students enjoy trying this activity in small groups because they can learn techniques from observing one another, or offer support and strategies to someone as they attempt to cross the slack line.

As always, I left this trip feeling proud of our students for their daring and fearless attitudes when faced with new challenges. I can't wait for next year!

-Mrs. Juengst