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School climbing programs abound in Garfield County

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Given Colorado’s geography and abundance of climbing hot spots, it’s a no-brainer that numerous local schools have adopted climbing clubs and programs.

Some programs are newer than others. Some are more competitive than others, but all are introducing students to the intricacies of climbing.

Area schools compete indoors in the Western Slope League region of the Colorado High School Climbing League. In the spring and fall, most programs venture outdoors to climb the real rock.



Here’s a look at what some area high schools, besides Glenwood Springs, have to offer in the way of climbing clubs or programs:

Who’s in charge of the program: Bryan Gall, CRHS social studies teacher



Gall’s climbing background: “I’ve been climbing for, I don’t know, probably close to 20 years,” he said.

Program history: Gall started the school’s club last school year. “We don’t have as big of numbers as some of the traditional sports, by any means,” Gall said. “We definitely have a number of kids that have gotten into it and are enjoying it.”

Facilities: Coal Ridge has had its own wall for a few years now. Beyond its use for the climbing club, the school uses the wall as part of its physical education program.

Outdoor hot spots: “We climb locally at Main Elk outside of New Castle and we’re continuing with that this year,” Gall said. “We’ve done one trip to Unaweep Canyon, which is south of Grand Junction, and then we’re actually trying, and I’m not sure if it’ll happen or not, to plan a trip to the Moab area in the spring.”

Who’s in the charge of the program: Dave Meyer, CRMS western world history teacher

Meyer’s climbing background: “I have been climbing since 1983, teaching climbing since 1988, and coaching climbing at CRMS since 1999. I have chosen to coach because climbing has formed a meaningful part of my life for decades. It is also an excellent way to teach important lessons about life.”

Program history: Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s climbing program is one of the oldest around, with an existence dating back to the late 1960s. “There was sporadic climbing before then but it began in earnest in those years,” Meyer said. “Climbing is not just a sport at CRMS, it is who we are and what we do. The program was originally started to use climbing as a tool for teaching about life. These ideas were based on the ideas of Outward Bound.”

Facilities: The school’s current climbing wall was built in 1999. Since then, it’s seen much expansion to accommodate larger numbers of student climbers. CRMS also uses the wall at the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center.

Outdoor hot spots: During the spring and fall, the CRMS climbers venture to various public lands where the school holds special-use permits. They climb locally in the afternoons and travel on longer trips to places like Shelf Road, Indian Creek and the San Rafael Swell.

Who’s in charge of the program: Steven Fuller, RHS foreign language teacher

Fuller’s climbing background: “I have been climbing since 1993,” he said. “For a long time, I did not climb, but being involved in the school program and helping students get excited about the sport has re-sparked my own interest as well.”

Program history: “Rifle has had a bouldering/climbing program for the past eight years,” Fuller said. “It was started by a former teacher who at the same time started our school’s experiential development program, True Life Adventure, of which climbing and belaying are integral parts. This teacher and his students were even featured on the cover of the New York Times.”

Facilities: Rifle has had a climbing wall for nearly as long as the school has had a program. In conjunction with several senior seminar projects and an Eagle Scout project, the wall was rebuilt last year to include more variety and greater surface area.

Outdoor hot spots: “Our Natural High Club and TLA classes take kids hiking through forests and the desert, rafting the Colorado, climbing at Rifle Mountain Park, bouldering in Unaweep Canyon, up to the high ropes course at CMC, and, in the past, we have also included mountain biking and alpine and Nordic skiing.”

Who’s in charge of the program: Mike Podmore, YMHS social sciences advisor

Podmore’s climbing background: “Most of the climbing I do is with the students, and I love it,” Podmore said. “It is a great way to develop relationships with students and introduce them to a healthy, fun activity that they can enjoy for much of their lives.”

Program history: Tom Heald, the current principal at Aspen Middle School, started the program at Yampah roughly 15 years ago.

Facilities: The school does not have its own wall, so outdoor excursions are the foundation of the program. When the weather gets cold, the climbing walls at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, Carbondale Recreation and Community Center and Colorado Mountain College serve as training grounds.

Outdoor hot spots: “Students in our program have mainly focused on outdoor climbing experiences,” Podmore said. “Over the years, we have done numerous climbing trips in Colorado, as well as trips to Utah, Nevada and California. Each year, we go to Salt Lake City to participate in ‘Climb For Life’ – a fundraiser for ovarian cancer.”


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