New Epicenter for Climbers
By Tori Humbard, Staff Writer
Rock climbers get an upgrade! Along with Southern Oregon University’s new recreation center in the works comes an entirely new rock climbing gym. It’s not entirely clear when it will open but it’s hoped it will be usable with the new gym in 2017, if all goes well.
Willie Long is SOU’s Outdoor Coordinator, and has over ten years of rock climbing experience under his belt, “I’m really excited to have a new high quality rock climbing gym to offer the students on campus” said Long. The new rock gym is going to be double its current size, “It’s looking like it’s going to be about 1200 sq. feet and around 40 feet high”, Long described. Some features the new rock gym will have include bouldering, top roping, and lead climbing.
The new location is going to be near the corner of Webster and Stadium Street. The gym won’t be open to the public, but there will be events held that provide facilitated climbing for community groups lead by students. Long projects that, “It’s definitely going to be a climax piece of the new recreation center, and also a cornerstone piece to the OAL (Outdoor Adventure Leadership) students on campus”.
There has been a change of plans regarding the availability of the current rock gym. “The school initially set to renovate the main gym leaving the rock gym secluded for access in the 2015-2016 school year, but construction changed that direction at the end of this summer”, SOU junior, Ciaran Taidgh said. The SOU rock gym is officially closed until the remodel takes place. Currently, SOU is shuttling students once a week for a Rock 1 class to Rogue Rock Gym in Medford.
Taidgh is the main point of contact for SOU’s Rock Climbing Club, and would have held the title of rock gym manager for the current school year if the gym was accessible. Taidgh said, “I’ve been climbing for close to a year and a half now”. He attributes the beginning of his climbing development to the SOU climbing gym, “it started my progression of indoor climbing to outdoor climbing”, Taidgh expressed. Looking to the future Taidgh says, “I think the main thing about SOU climbing is going to be built up community. It will be the epicenter for all of Ashland’s climbers”.
SOU student, Jace Hinesly, is a senior, and previous cross country athlete on campus. He is currently student teaching in the Rock 1 class that climbs at Rogue Rock Gym, “Volunteering in the SOU rock gym last year got me regularly climbing, and student teaching Rock 1 has been a fulfilling experience. It has really brought a balance and a joy to my athleticism and network of friends here in Ashland. I love it”.
While Hinesly won’t be here to enjoy the new SOU Rock Gym when it opens he believes it will help future students the way the old one helped him, “Having the rock gym on campus has really helped inspire me to pursue a more varied host of physical activities…having the staff and experience that we have here fully custom design a new rock gym from inception to completion is such a privilege”.