Athens is seated in the beautiful rolling hills of Appalachia. Within these hills lies a goldmine of hiking, bouldering and climbing.
Physical activity is a great way to participate and appreciate the beauty of the region. Going outside is one way to experience breathtaking scenery firsthand.
“That’s the main reason why I love rock climbing,” Courtney Curtner, president of the Ohio Climbers Coalition, said. “The benefits of climbing outside are views you’d otherwise never see.”
The Ohio Climbers Coalition (OCC) is a network of climbers in the state of Ohio who look to work with local landowners and parks to open and maintain access to natural climbing areas. The OCC form a grassroots network that acts as a channel for extended climbing advocacy and stewardship work.
“We do trail building and route development for climbing,” Curtner said.
The OCC also wants to promote respecting the environment, Curtner said. It’s important for the organization to take care of the land climbers visit.
“We not only want access to trails and climbing, but also to give back,” she said.
There is a difference between rock climbing and bouldering. The main distinction is the equipment used, Curtner said.
“Rope climbing is what we think of as traditional rock climbing,” she said
Rope climbing, known as aided rock climbing, uses ropes, harnesses, carabiners and anchors.
Curtner said bouldering is a good introduction into the sport of rock climbing.
“In bouldering, you just use climbing shoes and a crash pad,” Curtner said. “You don’t have to do as much... And there’s less knowledge you have to have.”
Bouldering helps build a climber’s skill set for rope climbing.
“If you want to do rock climbing with ropes, the skills that you need are the ability to challenge yourself, and be up for the challenge,” Curtner said.
Curtner encourages people of all skill levels to discover the sport. She acknowledges that some may fear they lack the strength and endurance required, and may even be afraid of heights, but those fears shouldn’t stop people from trying.
“There are rock climbers who are terrified of heights,” she said. “But they look at it as a challenge to motivate themselves and even overcome their fears sometimes.”
Rock climbing makes for great physical activity.
“It’s all-body workout,” Curtner said.
But the physical intensity is only half of the sport, she said. Rock climbing is challenging overall.
“It’s a mental game,” Curtner said. “It’s the balance between mental strength and physical capabilities. That’s why it’s a popular sport.”
Curtner stresses the sport is accessible nevertheless. It’s rewarding and comes in many variations of intensity, method, location and experience.
“It’s a sport for everyone,” Curtner said. “Get into it and try. It’s a sport you can do all your life.”
Rock climbing and bouldering is also an easy to get started in with plenty of opportunities in Athens, from recreation groups to gyms in the region.
“There are opportunities to get into the sport,” Curtner said. “You just have to find where those opportunities are.”
Ted Welser, a board member of Climb Athens, LLC, encourages people to give the sport a try.
“There’s definitely a community here in Athens,” Welser said.
Climb Athens is a local non-profit that serves members and provides opportunities to rock climb and boulder in the area.
“We’re part of what's trying to make connections between those people,” Welser said.
Welser said there several great places to boulder in Athens, but the region isn’t necessarily ideal.
“A lot of the rock here is not shaped well enough and is too soft for good climbing,” he said.
But, there are a few areas he recommends, like a spot called the Witches area, which is adjacent to Bong Hill, a place Curtner makes a note of as well.
“It’s really cool, especially in the fall,” she said. “You can see the whole city, and see all the trees.”
Both Curtner and Welser both highly recommend checking out Ping Recreation Center’s climbing wall to students who are interested in the rock climbing and areas behind the Corporation for Appalachian Ohio Development (COAD) building off East State Street for bouldering.
Welser said students should also check out the rock wall at Hocking College too or to check out mountainproject.org, specifically the Athens bouldering page for more resources on recreation in the Athens area.
Audrey Crowl, a freshman studying social work, said she climbs the rock wall about three to four times a week in Ping, usually with a group of friends.
“We encourage each other a lot,” she said. “It’s also fun because climbing is a challenge. We get to support each other.”
A previous version of this report incorrectly misspelled Ted Welser’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.