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Mike Schraff climbs at Blockhouse Bouldering in the Plains, OH on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. Schraff, a senior studying electrical engineering at Ohio University, began climbing at bouldering gyms in Cleveland during the summer and after Blockhouse opened near Athens, OH he knew he would be spending much of his timer there.

Climbing in Athens creates support, inclusivity

While bringing people together and proposing new, exciting challenges, climbing in Athens has worked to become more prevalent. With all different organizations and facilities, those who climb have the ability to constantly grow and try new experiences.

The Ohio Climbers Coalition aims to promote and protect the climbing within Ohio for generations to come. The goal of the group is to represent those involved with climbing statewide while preserving the existing climbing courses. The coalition’s website is full of information regarding routes in and around Athens to climb.

Ted Welser, regional representative of the Ohio Climber’s Coalition, said although Ohio isn’t always thought of when it comes to climbing, there’s a pent-up need for it, especially during the beginning of the pandemic. 

Welser said climbing in Athens is scattered and there are many opportunities, both through individual and group climbing.

“I think for a long time, people were involved in it but they didn't necessarily know about everybody else,” Welser said.

Through the opportunities Ohio University provides, people are able to meet others and create an ongoing connection. However, Welser feels there are still problems to be faced. 

“The problem the community faces is, so many people are students,” Welser said. “Students – they finish their schooling, and they have to do something. So they often move on. It's been a lot of turnover, I would say, in the climbing community in Athens. It's like it builds and then people leave.”

For Harrison Law, Outdoor Pursuits’ climbing wall supervisor, there are many students who have never climbed before coming to Ping to climb the indoor rock wall.

“We offer a helping hand and help guide them through how things work, how you tie certain knots, how to even belay to some regards,” Law said. “We deal with all of that and promote climbing as much as we can.”

Law said outdoor climbing in Athens is becoming more popular. Places like Strouds Run State Park and Sells Park have bouldering routes, which allow climbers to climb without a rope.

Law, who is now a senior, said the amount of people involved in climbing has increased since he started. Outdoor Pursuits offers climbing competitions for students, and the amount of interest has surged.

“I highly recommend trying it out,” Law said. “It's a really fun sport to get. It challenges yourself, both physically and mentally. It’s a really good workout and honestly helps relieve stress.”

Law said through climbing he has found support and inclusivity.

If looking for indoor climbing opportunities, people can visit Blockhouse Bouldering Gym, 3 1/2 E. 1st St., The Plains. Blockhouse opened last September, which caused a slow opening but a gradual growth throughout the pandemic.

Molly Marek, an employee at Blockhouse, said the gym offers opportunities for people of all ages. Blockhouse also does summer classes, memberships and punch passes for up to 10 visits. The gym has multiple courses marked with duct tape, changing often to continue challenging climbers of all experience.

Marek said many local people started coming out to the gym, and she’s been noticing progress within skills and the amount of people climbing. She encourages anyone to come visit the gym.

“I personally don't really like going to the gym, so if you were interested in doing it for physical activity, like a workout, I think it's a lot more interesting than going to the gym,” Marek said. “You progress in a very different way, so instead of going to the gym and squatting five pounds heavier, you get to challenge both your mind and your body by thinking about how to solve the different routes.”

Climbing in Athens, Marek said, is community-oriented and a great way to meet people.

Blockhouse is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m, Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pricing varies.

Those wanting to keep up with climbing in Athens or connect with others can check out the Climb Athens Instagram.

“Climbing is a great activity to be involved in because the challenges are always specific to yourself,” Welser said. “It's a good activity for people that want to improve in some way.”


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