Students defy gravity at 50 feet
For some people, fun is hanging 50 feet in the air with nothing more than a cable to support you while you desperately grip and claw around for the next hold – it’s all in the rush.
February is climbing month for members of UH’s Oudoor Adventure program. Their main event: the 3rd Annual Anti-Gravity Climbing Competition, which began Feb. 6. The annual competition started as a way to attract students who were not climbers to try out the rock wall inside UH’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
The mammoth-sized 52-foot free form rock wall is the second highest in the United States. Even though the rock wall at Texas Tech is one foot higher, UH’s rock wall boasts 6,000 square feet of climbing (2,000 more than Texas Tech) and is equipped with overhanging ledges, numerous routes to choose from and automated belays – a system of harnesses and cables to keep you from falling should you lose your grip. The automated system ensures your safety no matter how sweaty or distracted your partners get from their or someone else’s.
Egos aside, the contest is nothing to take too seriously.
With no drug tests or weigh-ins, it’s just a good excuse to use the facilities and try to beat your best time.
Spectators are not required to climb, however optometry freshman and recently converted climbing enthusiast Brandon Smith warns it could quickly become a new habit.
"I just walked up here and some of the guys who were working were talking to me about it," Smith said. "They said I should sign up. I clipped in and started climbing."
After giving in to the lure of seeing his classmates from stories above the ground with only a cable and his own strength to hold him, Smith realized it is both a rush as well as a strenuous workout.
"Once you do it yourself, you realize it’s really tough and really demanding, but it’s a lot of fun."
All participants receive a free T-shirt and can make as many runs as they want. Participants are allowed to climb on more than one competition day and the best five runs a person scores are recorded.
OA is utilizing the competition to share some aspects of this semester’s schedule and to recruit new members.
"The biggest thing at this point is getting the word out," Assistant Director of Programs David Conover said.
Not an expert climber? The competition may still have something to offer, as there are three categories for climbers to compete in: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Men and women are also grouped in different categories. More than 90 participants have already competed and today marks the third competition day There is still time to sign up and compete in this free and all-inclusive event.
Judges will announce the winners on Feb. 28, the final day of competition. Prizes will be awarded, varying from climing gear to spots on one of OA’s next trips throughout the U.S. Climbing a 50-foot wall might just be a warm-up.
According to Conover, the trips range from a day of surfing and relaxing in Galveston, a nine-day 400-mile bike ride through Iowa and other opportunities, such asovernight climbs at Austin’s Greenbelt crags. OA provides all the equipment and transportation, and breakfast and lunch are also included.
"We like to say, ‘You can show up naked because we provide all the gear,’" Conover said.
Another event later in the semester is the Earth Day Peddle and Paddle on April 22.
Here students experience a bike ride through downtown Houston and a cruise down Buffalo Bayou in canoes.
Picturing the scene, Conover jokingly tries to explain it as simply as possible.
"We’re going to be riding through the streets of Houston pulling canoes on bicycles."
For more information, call the OA office in the Recreation Center at (713) 743-0808 or visit www.uhoutdooradventure.com.
Additional reporting by Deanna Mendoza