Local children take to the rock wall


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Claire Pardubsky deftly scaled the rock wall as the fading blue of twilight streamed in from the skylights above. But one spot on the wall’s route proved too difficult for the 10-year-old.

She let go of the wall, left dangling more than a dozen feet in the air.

“I’m not giving up,” the girl yelled down to her friend and climbing partner, 11-year-old Isaac Pyle. “I’m just very tired of reaching.”

The two children are in a group of five students who meet Monday nights as part of the youth rock-climbing team that started in the fall of 2010 after the completion of the new Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.

They are just two kids involved in an activity that’s growing in popularity for young people.

Nora Metz, coordinator for the youth program, said some children find ways to excel at an rock climbing while using problem-solving skills.

“They just naturally have better technique than some adults,” the 22-year-old University of Iowa graduate student said.

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Children between 10 and 13 years old meet on Monday and Wednesday nights, and younger students between six and nine climb on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The program doubled the number of sessions available between the fall and spring semesters.

Metz attributed the growth in some part to the wall’s position as the focal point of the new rec center.

And the interest is not confined to children — 694 community members have become certified rock climbers since the center opened.

“It’s so much more visible here,” Metz said.

Other youth-program organizers are taking notice of the wall.

Meredith Caskey, program coordinator for the environmental education program at Recreation Services, said she regularly takes children participating in UI Wildlife Camps to the rock wall.

“We provide them with different options besides sitting in front of a TV,” Caskey said. “Climbing specifically is challenging to both their physicality and their mental abilities.”

Bri Wojtak, a child-life specialist and counselor for the nonprofit group Horizons, said she hoped to get more students involved in climbing.

“It’s the biggest self-esteem booster for any kid, knowing that they accomplished it,” she said.

Claire said she never was interested in traditional team sports such as soccer or basketball, but rock climbing is not as competitive.

Kristin Pardubsky, Claire’s mother, said she was initially hesitant letting her daughter climb.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m watching my 10-year-old climb a 52-foot wall with a knot she tied herself,’ ” Pardubsky said.

But now Claire and Isaac are considered advanced climbers.

After Isaac had his chance to climb Monday night, Claire left him suspended a little more than a foot off the ground. She dropped him with a light thud, and both the children laughed.

“You can drop me if you want,” she offered.

And they switched places — she to climb and he to belay — and gave the standard climbing commands.

“Climbing,” she said.

“Climb on.”

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