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ClimBRIDGES

Feeling the need for a challenge, I hit the wall.

It’s Friday night and I’m hungry for some soul food, so I head to ClimBRIDGES to tackle their climbing wall. This 30-foot, state-of-the-art climbing wall resembles a giant rock surface, dotted with colored climbing holds, and tendrils of long cords that attach to agile young climbers.

The monthly outing attracts families and young adults alike, climbers who gradually hoist themselves up to dizzying heights on the wall before bouncing back down like Batman. 

Taking up a challenge is good for the soul. It feeds us by making us stronger, and can work at any age. So once or twice a month, ClimbBRIDGES, a nonprofit team-building organization, opens their climbing wall (part of an extensive challenge course) to the community. Anyone interested can come and test their mettle. All it takes is strength, coordination, and a little nerve.

Kim Guleff has seen the benefits for her 9-year-old son Logan, who’s been coming for a year. “It’s been a confidence booster for him,” she says. “The idea of success and failure is very black and white here. They can see where they’ve climbed and say, ‘Hey, I’ve succeeded,’ ” she says. 

Eager for a test run, I get fitted with a sit harness and am introduced to attorney Rich Chotard, a climbing enthusiast who is one of nine volunteer belayers monitoring the wall. (Belaying is a sailing term that means “to hold fast.”) The rope attaches to my harness and threads through a belay device at the top of the wall before returning to Chotard. As the belayer, he supports me as I climb, releasing or tightening the rope to ensure my safety. “It’s more than support,” notes Tommy Slavings, ClimBRIDGES training coordinator, “because they are literally holding you onto the wall.” 

Chotard is one of a host of volunteers who have received training to work the Friday-night climbs. The equipment ClimBRIDGES uses is also routinely checked and well maintained. 

What I discover is that climbing demands full concentration. Worries about work or the kids go out the window as you strategize about how to move yourself forward. Parents say kids gain a real sense of accomplishment as they master one level and tackle the next. I climb to within 10 feet of the top before heading back down, but the experience leaves me breathless.

“It’s not a competition or a race,” says Slavings, “it’s about you overcoming your fears. Once you do that, you can overcome other challenges in life as well.” 

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