Cal Poly Recreation Center attendees will soon have another form of exercise to choose from — but it’s a bit different than lifting weights.
A new, outdoor rock-climbing park featuring a four-story climbing tower and a 13-foot boulder is set to open as early as mid-April.
The park, which is an expansion of the original wall that stood on the Northeast side of the McPhee University Union, is located between the Recreation and Health centers. It will feature more options and routes that range in difficulty from inexperienced to experienced climbers, options the former wall did not have, Associated Students, Inc. outdoor program coordinator Nancy Clark said.
“We had a very big climbing group that always came and always climbed,” Clark said. “But the wall itself was so small that if we didn’t change out the routes on a more regular basis, they got bored with it. This one is just going to have more surface area to keep everyone entertained for a longer period.”
The routes in the new rock park won’t be that easy, as they fall into the highest class (class five) of the Yosemite Decimal System — which gives numerical values to rate the difficulty of various climbs. According to Climber.org, a grade-five climb is one that requires a safety rope and protective gear, among other requirements.
The tower outside the Recreation Center will range anywhere from a 5.5 to 5.8 grade, Clark said.
“We do have some systems that go up to 5.10, and you would have to be a pretty good climber to climb 5.10,” Clark said.
While the the rock wall itself will have users strap up into harnesses, the new boulder will give members a chance to free climb above a softened landing area. Once students reach the top, there will be an area where they can walk down safely without having to climb, known as a top-out boulder.
Adding new features and expanding the climbing park is something that University Union Advisory Board (UUAB) chair Karen Mesrobian said will add to the diversity of experiences at the Recreation Center, and expose people to exercises they might never have had the chance to do before.
“It’s daunting, but it’s also amazing,” Mesrobian said. “If we can just get people to try it, to broaden their horizons, and also provide an opportunity for the people who are skilled to have that access, that’s the goal. If people are using it, then we’re successful.”
And that includes beginners. Clark said the 10 newly-hired climbing wall supervisors will offer training courses to novice climbers, so the area can accommodate users of all skill levels.
Prior to the opening of Cal Poly’s park, climbers had other options at two local gyms, Crux Climbing Center and SLO-Op Climbing. While both specialize in different types of climbing, Clark said she is convinced the new park will not affect membership numbers at the local gyms.
“We are so student-based, and I know a lot of my staff climbs at SLO-Op, and they are not going to stop doing that,” Clark said. “It’s a different environment. It’s a different clientele. It’s a different feel.”
Mechanical engineering senior Myles Wittman, who’s been an avid climber for two-and-a-half years, said he thinks the same.
“I absolutely think members…they will stay with the local businesses,” Wittman said. “SLO-Op is a very high-quality bouldering gym, so if you are looking for bouldering, you will go there. The new wall on campus does have a boulder, but it is nowhere near the size at SLO-Op.”
Wittman said he enjoys outdoor climbing as much as he can and is excited to see a climbing park on campus. He said he is the type of student who doesn’t enjoy lifting weights or running on the treadmill.
When the new park opens, he plans to be there at least three times a week.
“I am honestly just stoked to be able to train on campus between classes,” Wittman said. “I am into something I can work out on and see improvement. So to me, the Rec Center hasn’t opened yet. It’ll open once the rock wall opens.”
The climbing park will be free to all Cal Poly students and Rec Center members.