Pulling Down On The New CSU Sickness

While freestyle terrain parks are a skittle thug's preferred biome, this photo illustrates the versatility and range of the species. An unknown sender on CSU's new bouldering wall.

While freestyle terrain parks are a skittle thug's preferred biome, this photo illustrates the versatility and range of the species. An unknown sender on CSU's new bouldering wall.

Flourescent skittle holds, shallow faux crack systems, dozens of college freshmen in workout clothes, and shouts of  “Just grab the big blue one and do a pull up!” Classic ingredients of gym climbing hilarity – and now CSU students and staff alike can enjoy the plastic send fest.

On Sunday, March 21st, CSU Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Program (formerly the Outdoor Adventure Program), dropped the rope on their long-awaited climbing wall in the campus recreation center. When I attended CSU and worked for the OAP the wall was just a dream. So last week I drove to Fort Collins to see what that dream had turned into: A 30 to 40-foot tower with 360 degrees of climbing, a arching cave in the middle, two faux crack features with a mix of finger and hand sizes, ample lead and top-rope opportunities, and dozens of bouldering problems around the perimeter.  One crack, Barbarella’s Crack, 5.9, is the first gym 5.9 I’ve ever climbed that feels like a genuine old-school, sphincter-quivering outdoor crack climb. I told the program’s coordinator, Rodney Ley, that he was doing everyone a favor by calling that route 5.9 because now fewer folks will go hop on Loose Ends at Lumpy Ridge because they haul 5.9 jugs in the gym all day.

Climbing out of the cave and into the light provided by the gym's sky-high, south-facing windows that look across the intramural fields. Quite a sight at night.

Climbing out of the cave and into the light provided by the gym's sky-high, south-facing windows that look across the intramural fields. Quite a sight at night.

During my college years I would have loved to spend that awkward 45 minutes between class bouldering or leading short sport pitches (you know, that time that you try to get homework done, but more often than not you just lay in the sun in the Oval and stare at words on a page). Now students have that luxury. They can go put their physics lectures to work before their history survey, and all those liberal arts majors (like me!) can get their heads out of the clouds with some good ol’ fashioned tangible gravity and exercise. All you need are a harness and shoes, or you can rent for free (for now) from the rec center.

The wall also seems to be setting up some great educational opportunities. Outdoor Program staff in red T-shirts were busy teaching new belayers and climbers how to tie figure 8 knots and work an ATC. Top rope climbing classes can now learn some belay and climbing technique before heading out to the crags for the weekend, and with a belay ledge featuring two double-bolt anchors, classes can practice rappelling, self and companion rescue, and multi-pitch techniques. CSU expedition teams heading to Ecuador or the Himalaya can also practice glacier rescue techniques. New leaders can practice clipping bolts or plugging cams on top rope in a safe environment.

Plus, the tower, built by Boulder’s Eldorado Climbing Walls, is a damn fine looking piece of art. If you’re riding your bike north through campus at night and see a phosphorescent rainbow pinnacle looming against  the black horizon, don’t worry. It’s not an alien space craft – it’s just Fort Collins’s newest vertical play ground shining through roof-high south-facing windows.

Any opinions or experiences on the new OP wall? Let’s hear it in the comment box below! Happy pulldowning!

OP Staff Rodney, Natalie and Ben cold chillin' on the wall's belay ledge, which, for better or worse, is not quite big enough for dirt bags to sleep on.

OP Staff Rodney, Natalie and Ben cold chillin' on the wall's belay ledge, which, for better or worse, is not quite big enough for dirt bags to sleep on. Photo courtesy of R. Ley.

Rodney Ley, CSU's OP Coordinator and climbing wall visionary, sorts through a bucket of holds with his long-time climbing partner Pat Rastall. They were overheard reminiscing, "Plastic holds?! Remember when we were on Denali in '89? There's no plastic holds on Denali!"

Rodney Ley, CSU's OP Coordinator and climbing wall visionary, sorts through a bucket of holds with his long-time climbing partner Pat Rastall. They were overheard reminiscing, "Plastic holds?! Remember when we were on Denali in '89? There's no freakin' plastic holds on Denali!"

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