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Aric Pope, recreational attendant, West Gym, searches for his next opportunity to advance up the rock-climbing wall at the West Gym, June 4, 2014. With air-conditioning, hydration readily available and safety systems in place, the rock-climbing wall at the West Gym offers a safe facility for all Combat Center patrons.

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

101 Days of Summer: Base gyms, national park create opportunities for rock climbing

12 Jun 2014 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria

A climber hangs on by his fingertips, tirelessly clinging to a small part of the mountain face. Using every limb, the climber inches his way up, methodically placing his feet and hands for each advance. Every grip brings him higher until he reaches the top. With ease, the climber slowly lets go, allowing the retractable rope clipped to his harness to ease him back down to the padded floor.

The 101 Days of Summer Campaign began aboard the Combat Center, May 26, 2014. The campaign encourages safety in exercise, recreational activities and daily routines.

With the summer season going into full swing, the base gyms are offering their diverse facilities for Combat Center patrons to have a safe and fun alternative during this time of year. The West Gym offers a rock-climbing wall for patrons to climb for not only recreational use, but for a full-body workout.

“I’ve been climbing for most of my life,” said Aric Pope, recreational attendant, West Gym. “The challenge it gives your body by requiring so much exertion from both arms and legs makes for a great exercise.”

With the wall’s automated belay system, all climbers are required to do is hook on their harness and begin climbing. The system equips the wall with a retractable rope that connects to a harness which wraps around the waist and through the inner thighs. With the harness fastened, climbers can feel safe knowing, if they lose grip or fall, the rope will pull on the harness and lower the participant safely.

With air-conditioning, hydration readily available and safety systems in place, the rock-climbing wall at the West Gym offers a safe facility for patrons of all ages with proper supervision, and a great start for beginning climbers.

“We always want to be sure people of all climbing levels are safe when they use our facility,” said Felicia Crosson, health and wellness coordinator, Semper Fit, Marine Corps Community Services. “The belay system is an extra safety measure to ensure patrons have a safe experience at the gym.”

To utilize the wall, participants must attend a 15-minute safety class and receive their "red card" signifying they have received a safety brief on the facility and know how to operate all of the equipment safely. The facility caters to climbers of many skill levels by offering a side of the room for more advanced climbers to climb freely without the use of a rope or belay system. The West Gym staff also performs hourly checks on the room to ensure a proper response time to any emergencies or accidents.

Located near the base is also Joshua Tree National Park. Some Combat Center patrons go there to climb its rock faces, or simply enjoy the desert environment.

“Just the open desert of the Joshua Tree National Park makes me feel free,” Pope said. “I like going because of all the opportunities for climbing or just hiking through with a group of friends.”

Joshua Tree National Park accommodates for rock climbing, hiking, camping, and other activities with the proper equipment. Although the facility at the gym is not like those that can be found at Joshua Tree; the rock-climbing room is a great starting point for patrons to hone their skills.

“I’ve been climbing for about 13 years now and have traveled the world doing just that, but with Joshua Tree in my back yard, this is where I’ve done a lot of it,” Ryan Rothacker, rock climbing enthusiast, assistant manager, Nomad Ventures. “Climbing has multiple difficulties in this area and the ease of access always attracted me. With approximately 8,000 available routes in the world-renowned park, there’s a lot of freedom to climbing at Joshua Tree. As long as you have the knowledge, experience and equipment needed to be safe, the climbing opportunities are hard to match.”

During the summer season, Combat Center patrons look for ways to enjoy the weather and have enjoyable experiences. During the 101 Days of Summer Campaign, safety is encouraged in all activities. Locations like the base gyms or Joshua Tree National park offer just that during this time of year in the form of rock climbing.

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