Elizabeth Groth doesn’t back away from a challenge – especially when that challenge is a towering rock formation that most people would find impossibly steep.
Faced with such a challenge, Groth somehow finds the smallest cracks, crevices and ledges and using strength and skill unravels the puzzle of how get to the top.
For Groth, there’s nothing like the thrill of standing on the summit after a challenging climb.
“I really enjoy rock climbing because of the feeling of accomplishment I get after (climbing),” said Groth. “It’s cool to see a huge rock or mountain and think there’s no way you’d ever be able to climb it, then succeeding and getting to the top.”
Groth, a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler, is among a growing legion of rock climbers.
Rock climbing is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the United States. Rock climbing was among the Top 10 outdoor activities that people tried for the first time in 2012, according to the 2013 Outdoor Participation Report commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association,.
“I think people have begun to climb more because it is a fun and new way to challenge yourself and accomplish something physically,” said Sidney Wilder, a junior at the University of Georgia, who has been climbing most of her life. “It feels good to climb a route clean!”
Wilder also has noticed the increase in popularity of rock climbing. “I think people are drawn to that lifestyle and the adrenaline associated with climbing also,” Wilder said.
Groth said she began climbing when she was 8 when she faced a rock wall in a sporting goods store. “Then I realized I was actually good at it. From there, I tried outdoor (climbing) and have been doing it ever since.”
According to the Outdoor Participation Report, 5.5 percent of Americans 18 to 24 participate in rock-climbing.
Climbers must be in the best physical fitness to be successful.
“My favorite part about rock climbing is not only the physical fitness needed to be able to accomplish a route, but also the level of mental engagement needed in order to climb. It takes a lot of thinking and technique to be an efficient climber,” said Wilder.
The equipment needed for climbing outdoor include a rope, carabiners (metal loops used as connectors), quick draws, harnesses, belay devices, top rope, ascenders, slings, specific climbing shoes, helmet, and a glove depending on the climber’s preference.
If climbing a rock wall indoors, climbers only need a top rope, chalk, climbing shoes, a helmet and harness.
Safety is a huge concern in rock climbing.
“It took me a very long time to get comfortable while on the rock,” Groth said. “At first I was very scared, but I eventually got more comfortable and began to lean back while climbing and felt more at ease.”
Wilder said climbers take many precautions.
“If you are the one climbing, you want to make sure your harness and helmet (if wearing) are on securely, as well as the knots and carabiners attached appropriately,” she said. “Safety is definitely a huge concern when climbing. You always want to make sure, if you are being belayed by someone, that they know you are climbing, clipping quick-draws, or anything like that. There are also certain commands you would need to know to ensure safety.”
Rock climbers in East Texas usually have to go elsewhere to climb.
“It was hard for me to routinely climb until XTC was built and included a rock climbing wall,” said Joel Zandstra, a climber in Tyler. “I always had to travel a few hours to go (climbing) but now it’s very convenient.
XTC, located 7922 S Broadway Ave., in Tyler, is one of the only East Texas gyms with a rock-climbing wall.