High above the city, among the purple majesty of the Santa Barbara mountains, a man clings to a modest handhold, high on a jagged face of a 40-foot boulder. With sweat dripping down his face and his veins screaming at his skin as they bulge from his forearms, he reaches back into his chalk bag with one hand and effortlessly stretches to the last hold and reaches the top.
This scene is not a cheesy Hollywood rendition of Cliffhanger meets Mission: Impossible 2. Nor is it that cheap Spiderman flick. In reality, Tobey Maguire would have a tough time slithering his way up a 100 foot building in New York without the advantages of webbing and hairy palms, which replace traditional rules of gravity with the outweighing power of friction.
This scene involves good old-fashioned rock climbing, a sport that shuns the cautious and embraces the reckless. Forget the rush of scoring a touchdown or swishing a game-winning bucket – climbing is for the real thrill-seekers. All it takes is a pair of ballerina-like climbing shoes and a few screws loose upstairs.
“Definitely part of the attraction to rock climbing is the adrenaline rush,” freshman engineering major Kyle Visin said. “Even when you are strapped in by ropes, there is always that fear factor of falling and getting hurt. It makes you feel alive.”
The greater Santa Barbara area happens to be one of the best places in California for adventuresome climbers. With ideal climbing locations scattered all over the Santa Ynez landscape, UCSB students and Santa Barbara residents have historically taken advantage of their prime location. The element of exposure spooks many as they are climbing a wicked lip on Lizard’s Mouth or a gnarly heel hold at the Brickyard.
“Climbing feels great,” Postdoc and avid climber Kai Ewert said. “It’s just like breaking a record time. When you do a route you’ve never done before, it creates a real sense of enjoyment.”
UCSB also houses its own indoor climbing wall, located on the upstairs level of Rob Gym. There, a 15-foot construction of a boulder wall rests, awaiting a challenge. The service is run and maintained by UCSB Adventure Programs, which provides rock climbing classes that instruct all levels of rock-climbing technique. The wall is available to the public and UCSB students Monday through Thursday, from 7 to 10 p.m. Rock wall supervisor and junior Lyndon Valicenti loves the feeling of UCSB’s climbing wall and hopes more people will come and appreciate the wonders of rock climbing.
“This is one of the only walls in Santa Barbara,” Valicenti said. “If you are a beginner but you feel a little timid, don’t hesitate to come try. You will meet a great group of friends and it’s a great atmosphere.”