Up Up and Away

English teacher overcomes fear of heights to tackle rock climbing

Rayna Miller, Staff Writer

In February of 2020, English teacher Emily Shunn broke out of her comfort zone to try rock climbing. 

A friend, Karah, had gotten into something fun instead of sitting at home doing nothing. She invited Shunn to try it with her.

While Shunn accepted, she wasn’t sure it would be something she’d like as she was afraid of heights.

“It was one of those moments where we were all scared of falling down or breaking something,” Shunn said. 

 But rock climbing got her hooked. 

It became more important as covid hit the area. Her climbing gym was the only fun place open although with strict regulations, of course. 

“It became a great energy outlet and source of joy during a hard time,” she said.

With rock climbing, one has to have technique. Shunn explained.

Hip movement, learning the proper grip and feet placement are important skills. 

“You also need to know how to safely belay other climbers.” Shunn said. “Strength in the arms and core are important as well, but I feel secondary to good technique,” she said with a slight smirk.

In rock climbing, there are number settings on height or weight. The systems are graded on level of difficulty and involves colors that vary from gym to gym. The difficulty rating is the same everywhere.

Rock climbers learn to boulder, climb without a rope, go to different heights and more. Bouldering without a rope starts at V0 (easy level) and goes to V10 (hardest level). Top Rope starts about a 5.5 – 5.7 

“I currently climb in bouldering a green (V3-V4),” Shunn said. “In top rope, you’re working on measures – V represents climbing grades. It’s a unit of measurement similar to the way we would use ounces.”

It was easy for Shunn to buy into the sport. She saw it wasn’t hard because little kids were climbing too. Shunn believes anyone can get into rock climbing.

Shunn pays monthly membership that started around $60 but because of referrals she has made, it’s only about $35 for her now.

“Gear is another cost all together,” Shoes for a good pair they start at about $80. 

“They are a cute color and have a lightning bolt on them,” Shunn said. 

They’ve helped her reach great heights.

Harnesses starts at about $30 but for a better one Shunn suggests people get one that is around $50. 

Chalk bag and brush are $20 and up. Chalk is $10-20 depending on the quality and type of chalk.

 Shunn has limited herself to indoor climbing so far. but looks forward to a time when she can take her climbing outdoors.

Outdoor climbing makes some people nervous   because there is a lot less room for error and the price of making mistakes is greater.   

   She explained the route in the gym marked so you know the path to the top.

The other thing about climbing outdoors is that you need to be ‘lead climbing’ certified for most routes,” Shunn said. “Currently I’m not lead certified.”

But Shunn is certainly thinking about it. 

“Outdoor climbing,” Shunn said.”There is a lot more to the thought process. I think that can be fun.”