The Ascent Climbing Centre that opened in the Regional Health and Wellness Centre on Sept. 25 is taking climbing to new heights.
At 53 feet, the climbing wall stands eight-feet taller than it did in its previous location in the ENMAX Centre in south Lethbridge. U of L Climbing Wall Supervisor Scott Whiteside says that Ascent’s new home will also take climbing programming to the next level.
“The climbing wall will operate for longer hours, and the multi-purpose Wellness Centre enables us to offer birthday party and group packages that include climbing, swimming and access to other facilities,” he says.
Whiteside is a familiar face to local climbers and tumblers. The Lethbridge native has managed Ascent for the past six years and coached gymnastics for more than 20 years. He expects to meet many new faces now that Ascent enjoys a prominent location within the Wellness Centre.
“My personal goals are to increase our exposure, get new people climbing and encourage climbers to take more than just the introductory course. This facility is a one-stop shop where users can swim, use the gym or climb, and we’re hopeful that people will take advantage of that,” says Whiteside.
The on-campus location is very accessible for two of Ascent’s largest user groups – students and families.
“I expect the number of student users to grow now that they can climb during the day between classes or on evenings and weekends. Ascent has always been a popular location for birthday parties, and many families have told me that they hope to use the wall more often now that it’s nearby,” says Whiteside.
Youth and adult courses begin in October. Whiteside encourages people of all ages and abilities to giving climbing a try. Beginners often think that they have to pull themselves up the wall, but super-sized triceps and biceps are not required.
“You climb with your legs more than your arms. There are no limits as far as physical capability, and it’s great exercise. If you got down after a climb and did 10 or 20 push-ups you’d have an overall workout because climbing pretty much uses all the other muscles,” says Whiteside.
Even a fear of heights doesn’t have to keep people down. “I always say that no one is afraid of heights – they’re afraid of falling. Ascent is a good place to overcome a fear of heights because you can gradually climb higher and higher over time,” says Whiteside.
Those who do sign up for courses will discover that the climbing wall has routes to accommodate all levels of climbers. “Part of the appeal of climbing is that it’s a never-ending challenge,” says Whiteside.
Look for the bouldering section of the Ascent Climbing Centre, known as “The Cave,” to be complete in early 2007.
“The Cave is about 12-feet high, and it has all sorts of overhangs and a soft mattress to land on. Bouldering is becoming increasingly popular, in part, because you don’t use any equipment except for your shoes. I expect The Cave to be a big attraction,” says Whiteside.
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