Virtual event educates climbers on sustainable climbing

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Photo courtesy of John Miller N’ICE CLIMB – Climbing is an outdoor sport that has been increasing in popularity. Marquette offers climbers of all experience levels places to climb year round, whether on the rocks or on the ice. The Gym-to-Crag event will help educate those transitioning from an indoor climbing to an outdoor climbing experience.

Joad Blaauw-Hara

Marquette is known for its beauty in nature which provides opportunities for year-round outdoor activities. Whether it be hockey in the winter, kayaking in the summer or hiking in the fall, Marquette has something for everybody. For those looking to try something new or just learn more about an already introduced skill, the Gym-to-Crag: UP Climbing Community event offers a chance for experienced and new climbers to learn something.

The Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition will be hosting a presentation on sustainable climbing on Wednesday, March 3. The event will be targeted towards newer climbers who have recently joined the sport and have yet to still learn the preservation of climbing locations.

John Miller, secretary and board member for the UPCC, said that the event will be educational for those who attend and focus on U.P.-specific crags as well as both rock and ice climbing.

“Some key points during the event will be local climbing ethics, local camping rules and tips, leave no trace concepts and what climbers can do to help ensure continued access to climbing areas,” Miller said. “In addition, there will be a talk on different types of climbing in the U.P. and other popular climbing areas, as well as how to be a responsible steward/advocate.”

Before COVID-19, the climbing community was becoming popular and there was an increase of climbers in the area. However, when COVID-19 hit, climbing gyms closed leading to climbers switching to an outdoor setting. Miller said that this was a good thing, however, it resulted in new and different challenges for climbing areas as more people began to explore.

“As climbers (or those wanting to become climbers), we have a responsibility to ensure that we are recreating in sustainable and safe ways,” Miller said. “Climbing outside has entirely different hazards than climbing inside, and it requires different skill sets.”

As more people begin climbing outside instead of learning on an indoor rock wall, Miller said this could lead to dangerous results due to climbing without proper assistance.

“Climbing is a sport with inherent risk. Gravity is real and accidents can have serious consequences,” Miller said. “New climbers should join a climbing club, find an experienced mentor/partner or take appropriate classes from certified guides [such as Down Wind Sports]. For NMU Students there is a very active club [South Superior Climbing Club].”

The South Superior Climbing Club is a part of NMU’s many student organizations. The SSCC hosts annual education and outreach events that target climbers of all skill levels, whether they are beginners or advanced.

“Whether it be someone who has never been on a rock wall or an experienced climber, we want to support all who wish to climb,” Christian Latuszek, vice president of the SSCC, said. “We have a Facebook group with over 900 members serving people in the greater Midwest and across the world.”

The Gym-to-Crag: UP Climbing Community event will be virtual and provide important information for people preparing for their first time at a crag. The event will be co-hosted by the UPCC as well as the Access Fund.

“The Access Fund is a non-profit which advocates for sustainable climbing practices as well as fights for access to climbing areas and is the official host of the event,” Latuszek said. “In the event, we will be learning sustainable practices for climbing to the Upper Peninsula and other local areas in Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

The event is free for everyone and prizes will be included. It will start on March 3 at 6 p.m. and a link will be posted prior. Those who wish to attend are asked to sign up through the form provided. For more information, visit their Facebook page.