Vertical World helps climbers reach new horizons
June 11, 2008 · Updated 5:35 PM
For the kids of Kitsap County, ascending Mount McKinley may not be an accessible venture.
But fourth- and fifth-grade students at PineCrest and Clear Creek elementary schools got a taste of what climbing one of the worlds largest peaks might take.
Vertical World, Kitsap Countys indoor climbing facility, has used programs like its adventure education program to help get people hooked on climbing.
One of the really cool things weve done the last two years is an adventure education program with PineCrest and Clear Creek where well send instructors into PE classes, Vertical World manager Joe Holmes said. The unit was called Climbing Mt. McKinley. We covered history, first aid, orienting, math skills how much food and water will you need to take with you for climbing mountains for two weeks. Then we had the kids come in. Its one of the more instructive and innovative programs weve done.
Vertical World, located on State Route 303, has given an outlet to many of Kitsap Countys residents and all over western Washington, with similar gyms open in Seattle and Redmond.
The first indoor climbing gym to open in the United States in 1987, the Kitsap branch has been running for nearly four years. Already, its impact in the community has been felt.
Weve got a lot of kids in here, Holmes said. Its kind of rewarding to have these kids find something. A lot of kids out there are not that ball and stick mentality.
The gym has been able to serve a niche for those kids who dont find what theyre looking for in conventional sports.
Its a good sport for kids that dont connect with the soccer team or the basketball team, Sarah Pugh, program coordinator and climbing team coach, said. You can never tell whose going to be good at it. The kids that are the least experienced are the ones that blow your mind.
With programs for everyone, ranging from young children to adults, Vertical World offers a unique way to help its participants, Holmes said.
Its something people shouldnt be intimidated by, Holmes said. Theres a lot of innovative ways to utilizing climbing with teamwork, trust, confidence. Any number of things. We really are a unique resource here in Kitsap County.
Pugh agreed, saying that her climbing experiences have helped her in many aspects of her personal life.
It gave me a lot of confidence, Pugh said. And it forces you to look in black and white. Because there is some detrimental risk involved, it forces you to step up and be assertive. These are all things I wasnt really good at before.
They both said theyve seen similar impacts in the lives of many different groups that use the climbing facility. For Holmes, it was most noticeable in a group of special education students.
We have some special needs kids that have really kind of come out of their hole with climbing, he said.
For Pugh, the same experience could be seen in some home school students.
Its been awesome seeing some of the growth in their confidence levels, she said. Just the trust. When someone is holding the end of that rope, you just have to lay it all out and go for it.
Both said the sport is also an attractive option because of the effect it has on gender differences.
Climbing is a sport thats very equalizing not only across ability but gender, Holmes said.
What got me into the sport is it makes a lot of sense, Pugh said. Men and women compete equally. Its creative. Everyone moves differently on the wall.
Both Holmes and Pugh share a love for climbing that they said makes them lucky.
That was a goal to me, Holmes said. My goal in life was to get paid to do what Id do for free. So its pretty good.
Thats why I work here, Pugh said. Thats the essence of it. Its not like going to work. I have a lot of friends that complain about their jobs. Ive done that.
As a 26-year-old, Pugh said the gym offers something to do for her age range.
People are getting into it because it is more something to do on a Friday night, Pugh said. For people my age, theres not always a lot to do out here. This is a nice option.
The gym also offers programs for the military, parents and has a womens group.
For military, we do memberships where you can freeze it when gone, Pugh said. We understand what theyre doing and what we can do to support them.
Parents with younger children can take classes together, Holmes said. Were teaching parents how to handle the ropes, tie the harness. Climbing is one of the few sports where family interaction takes place.
Pugh said the womens group has a special place in her heart since she helped start it.
And most of (the climbing team members) moms are in my womens group, Pugh said. I kind of started it by cause I wanted some girl climbing partners and its taken off.
As for the climbing team, two members, Victoria Cartwright and Kale Perrone, are off competing at the national competition in Boston this weekend. But Pugh said shes proud of all of her kids.
Im so proud of them, Pugh said. And not just those two kids. Theyre all really new to the sport and doing it against kids that have been doing this their whole lives. Our kids have the most amazing mentality. They rally around each other. And theyre from ages 7 to 19. You cant get that diverse group of age groups together like that (with anything else).
I kind of feel like theyre my own kids. Im attached to them. Its special to be involved in something like that.
Pugh said shes just happy to work in a great environment.
Here, I have all these amazing people that are into it, she said. You have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a lot of people and really get to know them. Im really lucky. Its like playing.
To find out more about Vertical World and its programs, call (360)373-6676 or visit www.verticalworld.com.