Climbing not quite as easy as it looks from afar

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen

It seemed downright criminal. I had lived in Colorado for more than four years and had never given climbing a try. That’s right, the climbing mecca that is Colorado.

Then came the invitation from Glenwood Climbing Guides founder Mike Schneiter, whom I met through one of his many, many jobs as Glenwood Springs High School’s cross country coach.

He asked me to tag along for one of his all-day sessions at Rifle Mountain Park. Slightly intimidated, I agreed.

Good call.

Though my fingers and forearms took a beating – I could barely muster the strength to make a fist by the end of the day – climbing was a blast.

Watching Schneiter effortlessly scale the limestone at Rifle Mountain Park made it look easy, something I quickly learned wasn’t the case for an average Joe like myself.

“He makes 5.11s look easy,” said Sam Lohman, one of Schneiter’s pupils.

I didn’t effortlessly scale anything. It took all sorts of effort to make any progress on the routes I attempted.

The challenge of climbing proved enormous, as did the satisfaction of clearing every little hurdle.

Clinging tightly to whatever hold I could find – nervous as can be – before finally drumming up the courage to make my next move was a rush. No doubt.

And the obstacles were more than just physical.

Will that little protrusion to my left the next resting stop for my foot? Can I get a solid grip on that hold way up there?

The strategy behind it all is what caught me most off guard. It’s a much more cerebral activity than I ever imagined.

Thank goodness Schneiter has the patience of, well, a high school teacher (which just happens to be his primary occupation). The words of encouragement constantly and mercifully flowed, no matter how poorly I felt I was progressing.

My day at Rifle Mountain Park is something I won’t soon forget. Heck, I might even return one day.

Contact Jeff Caspersen at 384-9123 or

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