Rock wall provides unique opportunity

University of South Dakota secondary education student Lindsey Isaacson?works with the new rock climbing wall in Vermillion. Isaacson manages the?walls staff, does general maintenance and also certifies climbers. The?climbing wall is part of USDs new $15 million, 61,000-square-foot Wellness?Center. (Photo by David Lias)???

Lindsey Isaacson loves climbing. She also loves teaching Fortunately, her job at the University of South Dakota involves both.

Isaacson is student manager of the multi-story climbing wall at the USDs new $15 million, 61,000-square-foot Wellness Center that opened last month. As part of her job, she gets to help and instruct new climbers.

It's a very fun job. It doesn't feel like work, she said. It's really social, and you get to interact with a lot of people.

Isaacson, an avid climber and secondary education major, helps climbers become belay certified. Belaying is the process of securing a climbing partner during top-rope climbing, the most popular of the three types of climbing that are done on the wall.

With top-rope climbing, two people are always involved. The person climbing is attached to the rope, which reaches the top of the wall and is held below by the person belaying. A staff member is required to help unless the climbers become belay certified. Once certified, people can come in with partners and climb on their own.

Two other types of climbing are bouldering and lead climbing. Bouldering is short wall climbing and requires no rope. A partner is not needed, but spotters are often used depending on the height of the climb.

Whereas top-rope climbing is more about endurance, bouldering is all about power and learning how to utilize gravity, Isaacson said. It's a really good way to build technique.

Lead climbers start with the rope on the ground and clip in the rope as they climb the wall. This is for advanced climbers only, and no training is available at this time.

Lead climbing isn't something I train someone to do, Isaacson said. They've already garnered that experience somewhere else. Eventually I would like to do classes for that, but not yet.

Currently, if a person wishes to lead climb, Isaacson will observe them to see if they climb at a high enough level to do so. If approved, that person can lead climb during special hours on weekends. Along with certifying climbers, Isaacson also helps manage the small staff of students that runs the climbing wall. As time has progressed, other staff members have become more involved with classes, allowing her to get into other aspects of the wall, such as management and maintenance.

I started by teaching most of the classes, and the people I work with would help out, she said. And then I kind of started weaning myself out of it and watching them teach it. Everyone is very competent, and most people can certify at this point.

One of the staffs most important jobs is to complete a safety checklist to ensure there are no weak spots in the climbing equipment. The check is done twice each day by different staff members each shift. The process has worked so far, as Isaacson said the staff has not encountered any serious injuries since they opened.

There havent really been any injuries to speak of, except for maybe a few knocked knees, she said. We try and hold a pretty tight fort.

Isaacson said the wall has become quite popular, and she hopes more people come in to try out the sport.

Climbing indoors is a great stepping stone to being able to do some really fun things outside and see some really cool places, she said.

For more information, contact the USD Wellness Center at 605-667-8836.?

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