Students host rock-climbing fundraiser


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More than 50 feet above the ground, 6-year-old Owen Pyle heaved himself onto an outcropping of a cliff. As he continued up, he peeked momentarily over his shoulder and saw his family below, cheering and shouting words of encouragement.

With an outstretched hand, Owen grasped the top of the wall.

“I can see almost everything,” he said after he repelled down from the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center’s rock-climbing wall.

Sucking on an organic lollipop from his mother, he explained his reasoning for climbing: “My mom and dad told me it was going to be fun — and it was.”

Owen and 42 other climbers took part in a climbing competition Feb. 12 in an effort to raise money for children with AIDS. The wall remained open Sunday for attendees to climb non-competitively and earn donations.

At the forefront of the competition was University of Iowa senior Samantha Sidwell, who came up with the idea to showcase the wall. The 21-year-old has worked with UI Recreational Services for three years; she said she couldn’t remember how long it had been since the department held a climbing competition.

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“It’s been a goal in the climbing gym,” she said.

The first day included a spandex contest, and climbers came clad in outlandish costumes: sparkly pink tutus, colorful spandex, and even a Peter Pan outfit.

Sidwell said she added the fundraiser component to help two causes: promote climbing and help an organization.

Though organizers considered numerous charities, they eventually decided upon the American Foundation for Children with AIDS.

The foundation provided materials for the benefit, Sidwell said, and the Active Endeavors and Touch the Earth Recreational Education program sponsored the event as well.

With the help of the climbing staff at the Rec Center, planning for the event began at the beginning of the fall semester.

One staff member, senior Ethan Guio, oversaw climbers at the bouldering section tucked underneath the stairwell. Staff members at the wall volunteered their time and effort to belay for climbers and set up for the weekend event.

The wall was closed all week as the climbing staff cleaned and rerouted the wall. Then, friends who were not going to compete in the competition tested the routes, Sidwell said.

Sidwell said her goal was to raise $1,000 — she came close: $780.

Regardless, she said, one of the most important aspects to come from the event was to make the wall less of a formidable obstacle.

“One goal is to make it sound less intimidating,” she said, and the event was open to people who weren’t certified.

Competitors were not limited to just UI students, either. Climbers from the University of Northern Iowa and Madison, Wis., came to partake in the challenge, said Guio.

UI senior Katie Ovrom, who participated in her first competition Feb. 12, said the sport is a challenge for the mind and body.

“Climbing itself is very fun and is a very different feeling than a lot of other exercises,” she said before scaling the wall.

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