Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Summit Rock Gym Provides Ideal Conditions for Climbers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Summit Rock Gym Provides Ideal Conditions for Climbers

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe Journal Record Staff Reporter Rock gym: a place where you can work out to the music of the Rolling Stones?

Think again. The stones in the Summit Rock Gym, 6300 N. Santa Fe Ave., do anything but roll. In fact, they're bolted onto the walls, where they serve as hand and footholds for people who want to defy gravity and gain the perspective of a giant housefly.

"They completely started just for people to climb, in places like Denver, where there's a lot of outdoor climbing," said Andrew Hunzicker, one of the gym's owners.

Now, he says, about 80 percent of the people are new climbers who have opted for the ease of going down the street to the gym rather than driving to the mountains.

"You don't need a partner, you don't need equipment, and you don't have to drive a long way," he said.

He and his brother, William, opened Summit Rock Gym on Sept. 1 in the Santa Fe Club, a full-service health club. To their knowledge, it's the only one in the state.

"We researched it real well," Andrew said. "A couple of people have them in their garages." The rock gym contains 4,000 square feet of climbing space on 30-foot walls made of three-quarter inch plywood _ regulation material, the Hunzickers said.

Bolted randomly on the walls are the "rocks" _ handholds made of sanded resin that resemble fossils. The rocks are color-coded, so a climber can follow handholds of a certain color for a certain degree of difficulty.

Climbs range in skill level from those a child can manage up to 5.13, which in climber-ese means extremely difficult.

The handholds on the children's wall are made in animal shapes.

"Climbing is really good for children," William said. "It builds self-esteem and goal attainment. It does a lot of positive things, and it's totally safe." When one goes to the gym to climb, a person called a belayer anchors the climber so that if the climber loses grip or balance, the climber is suspended in the air, securely. To hook back onto the wall, the climber merely has to reach out and grasp the rocks again.

Climbers wear a harness around their seat, so that a suspended climber who's lost his grip looks as if he's sitting in a swing.

"Statistically, insurance companies say it's more dangerous to drive over here in a car than to climb," Andrew said. Rock gym jocks can look forward to overcoming their fear of heights and learning to do what they never thought they could, he said.

Some high schools, particularly in Colorado, feature rock gyms, the brothers said, as well as "every major city in the country." "Three or four years ago, the first one opened up in Seattle," Andrew said. "Now there's about 90 (across the country). They're just opening up incredibly fast." Three climbing publications offer free advertising for the rock gym operators, which allows the Hunzicker brothers to get a pretty accurate handle on the number and locations of their brethren. …

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