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On the rocks

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent
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RIFLE MOUNTAIN PARK, Colorado – As Jessica Gerstner scaled the final few feet of a route named Arioso, the typically even keel 16-year-old celebrated in uncharacteristic fashion.

“Whoo!” she shouted.

Gerstner had climbed lead on a 5.11 route for the first time, a feat she thought it’d take some time to conquer on this sunny Wednesday.



Not so.

She reached the top of “Arioso” on her first try of the day, no minor accomplishment.



“I expected this to be a project,” a smiling Gerstner said after rappelling down to the base of the limestone cliff face at Rifle Mountain Park.

“That’s exciting,” said Mike Schneiter, founder of Glenwood Climbing Guides. “It makes you realize what you can do.”

This is just a typical summer afternoon for Schneiter, a social studies teacher at Glenwood Springs High School who’s found quite the summer gig. Partnering with Glenwood Adventure Company, the outdoors enthusiast introduces tourists and locals alike to sport climbing.

Most of Schneiter’s clients are strapping on a climbing harness for the first time. Others, like Gerstner and Wednesday classmate Sam Lohman, are regulars who spend up to two days a week on the rocks with Schneiter.

“I just like the challenge, to be up at the top and to be able to see everything,” said Lohman, a 16-year-old from Silt.

While Gerstner and Lohman participate in Schneiter’s advanced class, for which he shuttles the youngsters to world-renowned Rifle Mountain Park in his climbing gear-stuffed Subaru Forester for a full day of climbing, many of Schneiter’s customers are tourists looking to give the outdoor pastime a more abbreviated tryout.

Glenwood Canyon is a popular spot for the quick trips, which are directed by either Schneiter or one of his three fellow climbing guides.

Schneiter’s company has had a successful first summer. Though not yet overly lucrative in a financial sense, Glenwood Climbing Guides is making a name for itself.

And it’s a perfect summer venture for a teacher who’s enjoyed a 14-year love affair with climbing.

Before moving to Colorado permanently a few years later, the native Iowan made a summer visit to his aunt in Edwards and discovered climbing.

“I went back to Iowa and looked around for climbing there. I found a few places,” Schneiter said. “I kept coming out to Colorado as much as I could.”

A book by Roaring Fork Valley local Alison Osius intensified Schneiter’s love of climbing. Osius’ “Second Ascent: The Story of Hugh Herr” relayed the story of Hugh Herr, a prodigy who kept his climbing career intact despite having both his legs amputated below the knees due to frostbite.

“That’s what really got me into climbing,” Schneiter said.

And he hasn’t strayed far from the rocks since. Neither has his wife, Joy, who is an accomplished climber in her own right. The couple’s young children, 2-year-old Selah and 3-week old Zeke, will no doubt follow suit.

They’ll certainly have a guide to learn from.

jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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