Welcome to the (Urban) Jungle

Welcome to the (Urban) Jungle

December 1st, 2013 by Jennifer Bardoner in Local Regional News

Writer Jennifer bardoner tackles the exterior climbing wall at The Block.

My palms get sweaty just thinking about it.

After my last - and only - attempt at climbing, I was envisioning more of a scene from "King Kong" than "Spiderman" as I planned to take on the 55-foot-tall exterior climbing wall that makes up the fa├žade of The Block complex on Broad Street.

I was excited, though. Not many get the chance to look around downtown while perched on the side of a building. There would be no one around to hear my gorilla-like grunts and unladylike murmurings as I tried to spread my balance between at best 1-inch "foot holds" while flailing my puny arms up and out more than arm's length to grab hold of hand "grips" similar to half-exposed tennis balls sticking out of the wall. I'm sure it would've been worth the admission price of a movie for any onlookers. But you'll have to check back on show times; the exterior wall wasn't scheduled to open until Dec. 1.

Jungle Gym

High Point Climbing and Fitness is offering both day passes and memberships. While there are no real age or experience limitations, some options, like the lead and top-rope walls, require passing a test first. High Point Climbing School will offer classes for those tests in addition to other courses.

Visit highpointclimbing.com or facebook.com/HighPointClimbing for more information.

So I did the next best thing: I climbed the walls inside The Block's newest tenant, High Point Climbing and Fitness facility, which is also scheduled to open Dec. 1. When I say "climbed," I mean "tried," and when I say "walls," I really mean walls ... and walls ... and walls. There is 28,000 square feet of climbing area in addition to aerobics, yoga and weight rooms. The bouldering area is rumored to be one of the largest in the Southeast, according to High Point co-owner John Wiygul. "You could walk in off the street and there's something for you. You could be a professional wanting to train and there's something for you," manager Shawn Watson says in regards to all the options. There will even be classes offered by the on-site High Point Climbing School, which is drawing professional climbers from around the country for its staff. Like Megan Pritchard who, after only a year and a half of climbing, is already at level V9 on a scale that only goes as high as V16 (she's sponsored, if that tells you anything).

"The flow is really great; the lead wall flows better than any other lead wall I've ever been on. It's great for beginners," she says. "All the angles are great; there's lots of natural angles." I don't know about all that - I had to look up what a lead wall is. But I do know that I made it farther and had more fun trying than last time; probably because it seemed easier. Yeah, I'm one of those people. Which is why I found the automatic belay system such a joy. All High Point's climbing walls have the helpful option, and many also have anchors for top-ropes climbers who are experienced enough to hook and unhook their belays from the wall as they climb up. I am not one of those people; it took me a few minutes -- and demonstrations -- to do it ... while on the ground.

"Belay opens up a lot more possibilities," Wiygul explains. For me that means the possibility that I could be a climber. It's way easier to go for it when you know you've got something to fall back on, even if that was the scariest part for me; trusting and letting go.

After all, it's a jungle out there.