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  • Writer's pictureJohn Seivert

Climb a Rock

Rock climbing is booming. It has been for the last decade. Films like the academy awards best Documentary of 2019, Free Solo, was the story of Sacramento native Alex Honnold's nerve-wracking free soloing Yosemite National Park’s iconic El Capitan without ropes or any safety equipment. His 3,000-foot climb took only 4 hours to complete. The film was 90-minutes of an anxiety-ridden, jaw-dropping endorphin rush. I watched this film during the 2019 Wild & Scenic Film Festival. It was NOT relaxing. The intensity of the story and the cinematography made for the obvious choice as the best documentary. If you haven't seen it, see it now. Back to reality, most climbers would not attempt that feat, and rightly so, it is too dangerous. Serious free soloists make up less than 1% of the climbers in the world. And, this type of climbing for these elite athletes is a tiny percentage of the time. One mistake and you fall hundreds of feet and would likely die. But that isn’t what climbing these beautiful rock faces is all about.

Kaya Ervin, DPT at Body Logic Physical Therapy (BLPT), has been climbing with her husband Jamie for more than six years. Last weekend Kaya, Jamie, and Hannah Kiyohara, another DPT at BLPT, went climbing on the granite walls below beautiful Bowman Lake.

“You just can’t think about anything else but climbing when you’re roped up and climbing a wall," Kaya said when asked about what drives her motivation to do it several days a week.

We have a plethora of outdoor climbing locations in Nevada County. And with the help of a climbing app called, Mountain Project, anyone can find places to climb in almost every state in America.

Local climber and guidebook author from Nevada City, Josh Horniak, has done a great job showing the most comprehensive guide for Bowman Valley.

Types of climbing

Free climbing

Free climbers rely solely on their own body to complete a route. Ropes and other gear are used for safety but not to help you move up the wall.


There are several types of roped climbing: Top roping and Lead climbing (with its two categories, Sport climbing, and Traditional (trad) climbing). These climbing styles are the most popular as they require partners to belay (hold the rope that the climber is attached, to catch the climber if he/she falls) the climber on the wall.


There are three main types of unroped climbing, bouldering, free soloing, and deep-water soloing. Bouldering is done on indoor walls or outdoor rocks typically under 20 feet tall. You will see these climbers bringing their crash pads with them to fall onto a cushioned mat. Free soloing is what Alex Honnold accomplished on El Capitan, no ropes, no protection. And lastly, deep water soloing is climbing over a deep body of water as the safety net. You slip and fall – no big deal, fall 50 feet, swim to the wall, and try it again.

Aid Climbing

This is the most complex type of outdoor climbing as it involves the uses of many tools such as ropes, anchors, belay, rappel devices, and rope stirrups. Typically done on extremely difficult sections of a rock wall where pulling on the rock is not an option. Many climbers will use aid climbing in Yosemite National park’s big wall climbing.

The Growth of Climbing

A July 2019 report from the American Alpine Club declared that "the rising influence of the sport of climbing in the United States is undeniable." They also stated, "the data shows a bright future for climbing with millions of millennials taking up the sport.” The indoor climbing explosion has been in effect since 2017. Hundreds of climbing gyms have opened across the country.

In 2017, Desmond, Erik, and Jakobi, a group of avid climbers living in Western Nevada County, opened Gold Crush Climbing Gym in Grass Valley. With over 3,200 square feet of wall climbing space, this local facility is state of the art. Gold Crush Climbing has 24-hour access and has gone from 40 members to over 130 members in March 2020. Their goal was to provide a top-quality climbing gym for year-round climbing and fitness, and a strong desire to contribute to the community. Their passion for helping young kids in the community develop confidence, strength, and teamwork began. They offer kids classes on Monday and Friday afternoons as well as specific classes for Forest Charter and Yuba River Charter schools. Desmond has worked with several kids with Autism, and a few other kids with some significant mental health issues found great success in the climbing classes due to the intense focus and planning each move requires in any form of climbing.

The Benefits of Climbing

Climbing is an activity or sport that anyone can participate in for various goals. The benefits of climbing are limitless. The combination of indoor and outside climbing creates opportunities to climb year-round with those repeated indoor workouts strengthening specific areas of the body to improve an outside climbing route that one is trying to accomplish. To call climbing a full-body exercise would be an understatement. The flexibility, strength, and endurance to hang onto minute ledges with fingertips and toes can be exhausting in a short time. Climbers will tell you about the mental toughness, patience, and goal setting required to scale a specific route successfully.

Hannah Kiyohara, DPT at BLPT, has enjoyed this new sport with a zeal for adventure. She loves the fact that climbing in our county with backdrops of Donner Lake, Bowman Lake, Lake Tahoe, and other classic sites south of here like Yosemite valley allows her to take her mind off work and her studies in her fellowship training.

Desmond said, "You have to process the risk assessment when climbing." "If a hold is getting slippery from your sweaty fingers, you have to plan the exit quickly." He stated that these repeated events create a great deal of planning, practice, and the ability to build confidence for anyone.

Climbing in the Olympics

Climbing is now an Olympic sport. It will debut in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The event will combine the disciplines of lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing. This version of climbing to be used in the Olympics is controversial among climbers because each is different. Nevertheless, adding climbing as an Olympic sport will create huge exposure and further improve the sport's growth.

Give it a try, go climb a rock, a wall, inside or outside, and be safe doing it.

Next month's column will focus on climbing related injuries and how PTs in this community treat the injuries of these athletes.

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