Taylors Falls, Minn. – Ropes. Knots. Harnesses. Cams. Carabiners. Nuts. Quickdraws. Belay devices.
All were in abundance and at work when rock climbers with Vertical Endeavors gathered atop — and below — the craggy cliffs of Interstate Park to confirm their skills the last weekend of April. Another outdoor climbing season beckoned.
The morning broke clear and comfortable — a good day to climb — and the seasoned group of seven VE climbers (all employees) scouted the well-covered routes of Tourist Rocks as if it were their first climb. They laid routes. They tested knots and cams, and they clearly communicated their intentions. All were part of a weekend of guide recertification led by VE director of safety David Schwab, who also runs VE Guided Adventures. The morning’s activity was proof of a simple truth: Rock climbing is all about the details.
Over the course of several hours, the climbing action picked up in the popular area. Men, women, children — all were taking to the rock. Some climbers took up offers to use the VE routes.
VEGA coordinator Katie Heimer of Minneapolis said indoor facilities are a major contributor to the sport’s burgeoning popularity in Minnesota. VE has them in Minneapolis, St Paul and Duluth and a fourth in Illinois. And Minnesota Climbing Co-op in northeast Minneapolis has a following with its 2,000-plus square feet of climbing surface, regular Ladies Nights and an inclusive message: a place “for climbers, by climbers.”
While indoor access is bringing young people into the sport, Heimer said she sees a need for more training of some she encounters outdoors. “It’s scary the knowledge gap between going indoors and outdoors.”
VEGA guide Christian Fraser of Duluth embraced the current climate (“it’s grown into something everyone can do”) but said climbers need to put pride aside and put safety first, and continue to learn.
Guide Erik Anderson was on board, too. “You have to be careful and humble about where your knowledge is at.”