Rediscovering rock climbing

NMU students on the PIEF rock wall and rock climbing community


Nathan Kwapisz/ NW

ROCK CLIMBING – The PEIF is a place full of activities and classes to help the community be more active. Rock climbing is a fun way for students and community members to stay active with friends and family.

Nathan Kwapisz

Rock climbing is a never-ending sport with never-ending challenges to attempt, which allows each participants to tailor the sport to their own skills and desires. Some participants decide to participate in the unique community that rock climbing provides, while others wish to climb competitively, or find a combination of both. Some rock climbers may wish to commune nature or remain inside, testing their strength against man-made challenges.

Levi Lewis, a senior fisheries and wildlife management major, said that the main reason he climbs is the feeling it gives him.

“Rock climbing for me is my main form of exercise and my main way to have fun,” Lewis said.

For Lewis, he got into rock climbing at a young age. He lost some of his spark for climbing in middle and high school, but was able to gain it back in college.

“I climbed a little bit when I was younger,” Lewis said. “When I came back to Northern, I saw the wall and I was like ‘oh, I have got to see what it’s all about’ and started doing it with a couple of buddies.”

Lewis said that climbing forces him to calm himself down and allows for moments of introspective time while on the wall. He’s also learned a lot of cool techniques, including Drop Knee, which is one of his favorites.

“Drop Knee is where you switch from using the bottom of your toe, to the top of your toe, while inverting your knee,” Lewis said.

Though he does not actively compete, Lewis said he has done competitions before to test his physical abilities and to support the rock climbing community in fun ways. He also said that some motivational figures in climbing for him are one of the trainers at NMU, Hugh Gundersen, as well as Olympic level climber Margo Hayes.

“Hugh’s kind of like a beast and so is Margo Hayes. They inspire me almost every day, every time I’m [at the rock wall],” Lewis said.

Hugh Gundersen, a junior physical education major, described his enjoyment for climbing because it was a never-ending pursuit.

“There’s always something new. I can do a new challenge and I can never run out of routes,” Gundersen said.

He said his favorite climbing move is the Heel Hook.

“It’s just where you use your heel to wrap around some rock on the wall and I think it’s super helpful, especially if you have to go around a corner or you’re just trying to get a rest,” Gundersen said.

The fact that the body can handle climbing a small amount every day is one of Gundersen’s favorite aspects of the sport, and his main goal is to compete in events.

“I got third in one of my competitions … I used to do a ton of different sports all at the same time,” Gundersen said. “I realized at some point that until I can focus on one sport, I won’t be as proficient as I want to be. Then I started climbing, and this is something I can work towards.”

Gundersen enjoys the fact he can use his competitive personality to focus on one sport, have fun and continuously get better. With eight months of experience, Gundersen wants to continue to climb and compete more than ever.

The climbing wall is available to those who sign up on the Northern Michigan University Rec Sports ( website and the PEIF also offers rock climbing classes.