Episode 45: Rockwood's Rock Climbing Transcript


Rockwood's Rock Climbing
Nature Boost 

Episode 45

[Music playing.]   

Hey there and welcome back to Nature Boost.   I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation.   Since working for the department in 2019, I have checked off many firsts!   

My first week on the job I tried my hand at shotgun patterning.   A few months later, I got my hunter ed certification and went pheasant hunting.   I've gone on paddling trips, I've learned about fishing, hunted for mushrooms (unsuccessfully), I've watched the great horned owls in Forest Park, I explored a cave.   Oh, and I also ate some insects the other month.   This job has exposed me to a variety of ways to experience and enjoy the outdoors in Missouri.   I recently went to new heights to keep that feeling going.   

>>   Up right, up right, up right!   

>>   Right in here, right in here.   Yes!   Oh, come on!   Come on!   

>>   Come on!   Get your boots up!   Relax, relax.   Chill out.   

>>   You're good.   You're on good terrain now.   Relax.   Good job!   

>>   Oh my God!   That was tough!   

>>   Nice job!   

>>   I can't believe I did that, wow!   

>>   That's amazing.   

>>   Thank you so much, Kevin!   

>>   What you just heard was hands down the most physically taxing experience of my life.   But also, one of the coolest and most proudest moments ever.   And I owe it all to Kevin McCarthy and Russell Errett from the BETA Fund.   These two rock climbing gurus donated one whole day to me this past September to teach me the basics of this popular outdoor sport at the new rock climbing bluff at Rockwoods Reservation.   

What's even cooler, the BETA fund was a crucial partner in the development of this site which is the first ever public rock climbing facility offered on an MDC area.   There are a lot of firsts in this episode.   

Kevin gave me the rundown on the basic equipment needed for sport climbing, which is a form of rock climbing using fixed bolts and a rope.   Then Russ strapped in to lead the climb and secure the rope through the anchor at the top of the route.   

[Music playing.]     


>>   First we have a climbing rope, it is called a dynamic rope.   It will give a little bit of stretch, not nearly as stretchy as like a bungee cord but it's not hard and rigid like a static rope.   

>>   Why do you need it to have some stretch?   

>>   Yeah, so, a little bit of stretch reduces the impact.   If you were to say, take a fall on a static rope it is like a hammer hitting a nail.   It is really really hard.   

>>   More of a jerk.   

>>   Yeah, more of a jerk and that's bad on your body but it is also bad on the equipment or even the bolt on the wall.   So when you have a nice soft catch, you know, it's .... 

>>   You got a little bit of leeway there with the give.   

>>   Yeah.   So first thing is we have the climbing rope and we also have what are called quickdraws which are two carabiners.   These are about 6-8 inches apart or so and are connected with some nylon webbing.   So this is what we will use to clip into the bolts that have already been drilled into the wall as we are climbing.   One carabiner goes to the bolt and one carabiner goes to the rope.   Those are quickdraws.   We also have a variety of slings if needed.   But that's kind of the basic rope, carabiners, quick draws.   

Also for your body, we have a harness.   

>>   Yes and I've got mine on now.   

>>   Uh-huh, and I have mine on, too.   In sport climbing, you need to have two.   One person is climbing and the other person is holding the rope.   The harness is your connection to the rope.   It fits nice and high over the hips and legs.   We also have what are called belay devices.   We have a couple of varieties.   This one is called a grigri.   

>>   A grigri?   

>>   Yes, a grigri.   A lot of the equipment comes from Europe so it gets really fun names.   

>>   Gotcha.   

>>   This one auto locks.   So this little camming device grabs the rope whenever weight is put on it.   The other one I have here is called an ATC, Air Traffic Control    [Laughing.]   I think that is the acronym where it came from.   So with this one basically the rope gets fed through the tubes there.   And you can use your hands to put friction on it.   That is for the belayer, the person on the ground that will hold and grip the rope while the person is climbing.   

>>   Gotcha.   

>>   That is really the essentials.   The must-haves in sport climbing.   

The really nice to haves.   Of course, our climbing shoes.   These are specific shoes that have Velcro to them.   There are also lace up styles.   These have some rigid rubber that helps you stand on some of the tiniest tiniest little crystals or edges or whatever it is.   Of course, a bigger foothold is always nice.   They are not clunky like a hiking boot or a tennis shoe.   They are specific to the sport and help you stand on small stuff.   


>>   They are almost pointed at the end.   

>>   Yeah, and it helps direct the strength to your big toe.   It crunches your toes together almost like a ballerina that stands up on their toes.   We are standing on edges on our toes.   

One more.   This is really nice to have.   But for me, I call it an essential because my hands get really sweaty when I climb.   This is chalk.   Climbing chalk you may be familiar with it like gymnast chalk.   It is a little bit different.   You can dip your hands in there and kind of get it all over your hands.   

>>   It feels like powdered sugar!   

>>   Yeah.   Yep.   And what this does is heat and moisture is a climber's worst enemy.   

>>   Oh sure.   

>>   And of course gravity, we are always fighting gravity but that is the point.   The chalk has drying agents in there and it helps keep your fingertips dry so you don't slip and have a better grip.   

So that is the essential equipment for sport climbing.   But of course, we will talk about bouldering or traditional climbing and replacing your own gear.   There are some other pieces we could be talking about.   Oh, did I mention helmets?   

>>   No, and they are even on our heads right now!   Oh my gosh, yes!   Let's talk about helmets.   

>>   Helmets for sure are essential.   An essential.   Years and years ago climbers did not always wear their helmets but they are for sure becoming more popular.   That is a good thing.   Safety is king and queen when it comes to climbing.   Helmets are essential while you are climbing if anything falls like equipment or even rock itself.   

>>   Russ started by leading the climb while Kevin stayed on the ground to belay.   He made sure he had enough quickdraws, the two carabiners connected by a sling for the number of bolts on the route.   And for the anchors for the top rope.   While he was tying in he told me a little history of the site.   

>>   Rockwoods has a little bit of climbing history.   People have been climbing on this bluff, this is a quarried bluff.   We don't exactly know the different lines people were all using in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s.   


There are a couple of lines that we know that people have climbed on.   There is this corner where you see these other climbers.   That has been a popular one for years.   When we came out we kind of just started from a blank slate.   We remapped them all with crowbars to break out as much of the loose stuff we could get to and then we put in the anchors.   

>>   Was it really fun for you guys to work on this project?   

>>   I think they call it type two fun.   

>>   A lot of work goes into it.   

>>   It is really hard, really sweaty.   

>>   I don't know how many ticks we had to pull off.   Hundreds.   

>>   Yeah, a lot of ticks!   

>>   Oh yeah, sure.   

>>   Poison ivy.   All the stuff.   It was a lot of work.   But afterwards it was like man, it was really cool.   

>>   Yeah, and really gratifying to see what it has become now and how popular it is.   

>>   Yeah, it is an old quarry so there is a lot of loose rock.   Kevin and I spent the first three months or whatever just cleaning rock off.   Pulling some of these loose boulders off so it was safe to climb on.   That was nerve wracking trying to do that.   It was different.   Once we got that cleaned out and ready to bolt, bolting and developing routes is the fun part.   

>>   Oh, awesome.   Okay, Russ, keep going.   Tell us what happens.   

>>   I could start climbing now but I wanted to kind of show you guys what a stick clip is.   In case the first bolt is maybe a little high and you are feeling uncomfortable.   Right now if I were to start climbing, I wouldn't be roped up.   I would basically be bouldering.   If you don't have a crash pad below and you would fall, it could be unnerving for you.     

>>   Risking a twisted ankle or broken leg even if you fall on the wrong kind of rock below.   

>>   With a stick clip, this thing kind of extends out.   A lot of sport climbers will carry these.   You put it in there and you pull it and I am clipped into the first one so if I fall on that first one it's on belay with Kevin.   

>>   Perfect.   

>>   So now that Russ is tied in, I will grab the tail end of the rope here.   I will put it through the belay device.   Tighten the lock gate and now he is in.   If I pull up on the rope, as if Russ were to take a fall, it auto locks.   I will always keep my hand on what is called the brake line of the rope, because mechanics can fail.   You always want to have a good hand on the brake no matter what.   

>>   Alright.   


>>   The last thing I do before I do a climb is put my climbing shoes on.   My shoes are a little snug.   

>>   They do.   I notice they do have quite the arch in them.   If you are not on your toes, it feels strange.   

>>   Yeah, they are not for walking on the ground.   It is actually a little dangerous on the ground because there is no tread and your foot is in an unnatural position.   If you are on leaves, you can easily slip and fall.   A lot of the falling risk is actually on the ground.   

>>   Imagine that.   

>>   So for belaying, I am the belayer in this position and Russ is the climber.   So it is my responsibility to hold the rope in a comfortable way that allows Russ to continue to climb so I can feed the rope out as he continues to climb up.   But then also if he were to happen to fall, I am always 1000% ready to catch him.   All the friction on the rope is here in my belay device here on the ground.   My right hand is always on what is called the brake line.   I am never letting go of this brake line ever until Russ gets down on the ground.   So, as he goes up, I will slowly feed rope through the device and let it go up.   I am always ready to have the brake on.   

>>   So before he goes up you guys double check to make sure he is secured in with the rope.   

>>   I check him, he checks me.   

>>   You get a lot of trust in your partners if you climb with them for a long time so sometimes you kind of shortcut some of these things.   But if you are new with your climbing partner, we should be checking each other.   He would physically check the knot himself to make sure I tied it correctly.   I would grab his locker to make sure it is locked.   As we get used to each other though, we kind of look at each other and make sure it is locked real quick and move on.   We have climbed together for years.   

So at this point I would ask him if he is on belay.   

>>   Belay is on.   

>>   I would say I am climbing.   

>>   Climb on.   

>>   As Kevin belayed, Russ climbed up basically dancing up the side of the bluff looking cooler than I've ever seen a person look.   


Then after he got back down, Kevin was nice enough to climb up an adjacent route and anchor off so he could climb with me and coach me along the way.   

>>   So this is not a normal climbing thing.   This is what I will use to tie off the route next to me.   

>>   Gotcha.   

>>   I think I will unclip all of them because it gets a little tricky.   Those last couple moves.   But then you will lower me back to the ground on the left.   

>>   I'm locked.   

>>   Good.   Tied.   Climbing.   

>>   Climb on.   

>>   So a few things.   Watch where his feet go.   That is something that always trip newer people up.   They forget about their feet.   They are so focused on their hands and they forget about their feet.   The majority of your weight will go through your feet.   You will drive through your legs.   You definitely want to find your feet before you start finding your hands.   You see how he is on good feet?   There will be some spots where we call it smearing if you are facing your foot on the wall.   But you have rubber on your shoes.   You just smear for a second until you get to the next good foothold.   

So there are a couple tricky spots.   This bottom section here is a little tricky here but we will get you through it.   

>>   I trust you guys.   

>>   Then above where he is at there, there is another tricky section.   Leave that one on and clip that one when you come back down.   

>>   It is not a race.   Go at your own pace.   Whatever you are comfortable with.   Yeah.   I have been on routes for 30 minutes before.   

>>   Russ, how old were you when you did your first climb?   

>>   15, I think.   Well, yeah, 14 or 15.   I was in Boy Scouts.   It was overwhelming because it was the first real backpacking trip I went on.   Just the whole thing.   Being on the trail and climbing.   

>>   What do you like about it?   

>>   It is hard to explain.   It is just like a sensory overload, really.   You are doing so much and you are off the ground.   You are outside of the normal element of walking on the sidewalk, really.   You kind of forget about everything, really.   You are focusing on the activity.   You don't focus on work or stresses that you have going on in your life.   You focus on the activity.   

>>   It is easy to get into a zone when you are rock climbing because you are so focused.   

>>   I got you man.   Coming down.   

>>   Is this self care for you in a way?   

>>   Probably.   It is my counseling session for the week.   


>>   Yeah, so we are ready to rope you up and get you going whenever you are ready.   Whenever we are ready.   

>>   I'm ready!   

>>   This is where you will face your right foot.   Remember I said you want to find your foot first?   I always try to find it before I start doing the sequence.   

>>   You sure that is where it goes.   

>>   Yep, you will end up with your left foot here and your right foot either here or here to get up to the next hold.   

>>   You get there and then you are home free.   That's the big one.   You are just so focused on the hard part.   Where's the easy part at?   

>>   Okay.   Okay.   

>>   Yeah!   

>>   I'm locked.   Belay is on.   You can start climbing whenever you are ready.   

>>   Chalk up.   Chalk up as well.   

>>   Yeah, you will want that when you get into the sun up there for sure.   You will feel it as your fingers sweat.   

>>   Do I want to do my palms too?   

>>   Yeah, don't be shy.   

>>   Back on again.   You are fine.   Alright.   Ready to go.   

>>   Okay, Kevin.   Do I just   . . . 

>>   Focus on your feet.   Remember your feet.   Look for all the big footholds to start with here.   

>>   Think about dancing your way up, shifting your weight over those toes and using them in all kinds of different directions.   

>>   This part will be really bouncy, imagine you are on a ladder.   

>>   Yeah, there you go.   

>>   Okay.   Oh, these shoes!   

>>   If they are super painful, you can put on your regular shoes.   


So yeah, the holds you want to is this big kind of ledge thing over there.   Yeah.   That's it.   

>>   Okay.   Too short for that one.   

>>   You're alright.   Just stay on your feet.   

>>   There it is.   

>>   Trust us, we got big feet.   I gotcha, you're good.   Now you can get that.   

>>   Reach up with the right hand.   

>>   Right hand.   Where is it?   Oh!   

>>   Nice.   

>>   Oh my God.   Okay.   

>>   Head towards your right.   You will get both hands on that.   Then another good hand hold is going to be this one right there.   Yeah.   Now get your left foot up again.   

>>   My left foot.   

>>   Stand up to that left hand hold.   Yes.   Now the smear.   Yes.   Focus on that chalk part.   Trust it.   

>>   Trust it?   Are you sure?   But then where do I go from here?   

>>   There is a fun little pocket we skipped.   

>>   Oh no I don't know.   

>>   Up to the right of the bolt.   Any of those areas.   

>>   There is this thing there.   Just trust it.   Yes, yes, yes!   You are on it.   You are on it.   Trust it!   You got the hole.   

>>   Okay, I'm falling.   

>>   Trust it, trust it.   Nice!   Take a break for a second.   Breathe it out.   Take your hands out and shake your hands out.   

>>   You felt the move.   You just missed it.   If your fingers went in it like you were going to be there.   

>>   Okay.   Yeah.   

>>   Go to the one that is higher.   It is more natural to grab the open hole.   

>>   As tempting as it is to grab the bolts, just don't.   They are small and your fingers can get tangled in them a little bit.   Only grab the natural features.   Yeah.   

>>   Okay so wait.   

>>   Right foot and then get your left foot up.   

>>   Get my left foot where?   

>>   On that top hold.   

>>   It's a little bit smeary, it is not a perfect ledge.   There you go.   

>>   There from my left?   

>>   Same as you just did.   Yes!   Now look for the hold.   

>>   Wait, which one?   

>>   Up right, up right, up right.   

>>   Right there.   

>>   Yes!   

>>   Come on, come on!   Yes!   Then go for the big ledge.   

>>   Chill out, relax.   You are on good terrain now.   

Nice job!   

>>   Oh my God.   That was tough!   I can't believe I did that.   Wow.   

>>   That's amazing!   It's amazing.   

>>   Oh my gosh, my hands hurt so much, Kevin!   

>>   That's amazing.   


>>   Thank you guys, wow.   

>>   The moves are a little easier from here.   

>>   It's hot up here.   Oh my God.   Okay.   Okay.   

>>   You're going to traverse and climb up that pedestal to your right.   Get both hands on it.   Climb straight up from there.   

>>   Use your knee.   

>>   Can I use your knee?   

>>   Yeah, they all work.   Nice.   

>>   Nice!   

>>   Whoo!   Wow!   Oh my gosh.   This is amazing.   This is so cool.   Wow!   

>>   It's so great.   

>>   This is so great.   Oh my God.   It is like adrenaline and you know, scary.   [Laughing.]   

>>   Yep from your head to your fingers to your toes.   The whole body.   

>>   It is the whole body, yes, absolutely.   

>>   Yep.   That's great.   

>>   Okay.   So I am just going to keep going here?   

>>   Yeah you walk through this, I mean not walk, obviously climb.   It is an easier section.   Pressing down with your hands is good on this lower angle terrain and then you will get up to the next quick draw and unclip from that section because you are following   . . . 

>>   I want to interject here to give some context because it may be a little confusing just getting the audio.   It sounds like Russ, Kevin and I are close to each other during this recording, but we are not.   At this point, Kevin and I are probably about 20 or so feet high on the side of this rock bluff while Russ is down on the ground belaying for me.   But of course, it doesn't seem that way because we all have microphones on.   


Also, I want to say I like to think of myself as a fairly fit person.   You know, I am not the picture of physical health but I got a Planet Fitness membership and I like protein shakes sometimes.   But this was a whole new test of my physical capabilities which is why you hear me grunting and groaning a lot during this climb.   This is a new way meant to discourage anybody from climbing if they are interested.   I am just saying I went into this pretty cocky and was immediately humbled.   

>>   Oh, I'm slipping!   

>>   Get it, come on, come on.   Come on, come on.   

>>   Feet, feet, feet.   

>>   Take your left hand and press down over here.   [Clapping.]   I love it!   I love it!   

>>   Okay.   Thank you, Russ.   

>>   Lean back for a second and let both of your arms dangle.   

>>   Take a breather for a second.   Get comfortable on the harness.   

>>   Oh thank you.   That's so tricky.   Whoo!   Whoo!   

>>   Before you go again, take a break.   I would recommend taking your hands off and putting them on the rope because right now you are a little gripped.   So put your feet out in front of you.   Totally okay.   Russ has got you.   Yeah so there you go.   Put your feet up a little higher even.   Get a little more comfortable.   

>>   Let your arms hang down.   

>>   That's okay?   

>>   Yeah.   

>>   That feels so strange.   Wow.   Okay.   

>>   Turkey vultures fly.   You are up in the treetops.   Kinglets and woodpeckers and all kinds of cool stuff that you would never see in the ground.   You are up in the trees.   Bird nests, and squirrel nests.   You did so good.   You are doing so great.   

>>   Thank you so much.   I appreciate this.   I mean, this is hard.   [Laughing.]   But it is so gratifying whenever you make it work.   Wow.   

>>   It is deceiving too because even a section that is a couple of feet.   Like they say in football it is a game of inches.   In climbing, it is a game of millimeters even.   


One minuscule shift of the body weight or a tiny little difference in a pinky will make such a huge difference and then it unlocks it and then you are on.   

>>   Well and then there is a lot of weight that you are putting in such a small amount of space you know with your feet and then the gripping.   

>>   Yep.   

>>   I mean, what were you saying earlier?   Luckily.   I have the chalk marks to help me.   You said that was sharing beta?   

>>   Yeah, beta.   When you watch other climbers, or sometimes we go through and we will brush holds or even kind of use the chalk to kind of take up a hold if we need to.   When climbers are sharing information from one to another, it is called sharing beta.   That kind of has its roots in the '80s and '90s when way before streaming and the internet.   The only way climbers could share information was by sharing videos.   Of course, they would talk to each other.   There was the VHS format and then there was the Betamax format.   When climbers were sharing videos of different routes and climbing with each other, they would share a Betamax video they were sharing.   We still use that term today.   Do you have the beta for this move?   Do you have the beta for this route?   


Now, our organization is called BETA Fund.   We share information and resources.   

>>   I love where that comes from.   I love the history of that.   That's awesome.   

>>   So chalk up nice and good just like you did at the very beginning of the climb.   You had it perfect.   Even though it is super gripped you had a good right hand over there on that tiny little ledge, that free finger ledge.   Your left hand was down here.   That left hand can turn from a pull down to a push and that will reach up the right hand even higher.   There is a really good ledge up there, a good ledge here, and eventually you got that one.   You got this.   Yeah.   Get that little edge.   Perfect.   Left foot in that thing.   Get that right edge.   That will work.   Yeah.   There you go.   

The right foot up.   Begin with that.   That's it.   Left foot is going on the big ledge over here.   Press.   Good.   Left foot.   

>>   There it is!   

>>   Good!   

>>   Yay!   That was so tricky.   

>>   Nice job.   

>>   Oh my God.   Thank you so much.   Wow!   Russ, did you see that?   

>>   I did, I did.   Nice!   

>>   So you will continue up.   I will get to my anchors right here.   I can give you a little bit of coaching from the   . . . 

>>   Oh my God I freakin' climbed this.   Oh my God!   Wow!   Wow!   

>>   You did!   If you look just above the anchors, there is a really good horizontal ledge.   It is nice and big and flat.   So the majority of this move will come off your right hand and you kind of find the good feet, good enough.   Then your left hand will be the one that moves up.   The feet get a little thin.   You just need to trust those feet.   Get them on anything.   They will stick.   Even if they don't, Russ has you and that's the point of the rope.   

>>   Yep, yep, I'm with you.   

>>   That's good.   Walk them up.   

>>   Big ledge you are going to.   

>>   I'm slipping.   

>>   You're good.   I'm with you.   I'm still with you.   

>>   Yeah!   That's it.   

>>   Did I do it?   

>>   You did!   Yeah!   Nice!   Whoo!   

>>   Holy snikes!   Oh my God.   Wow!   

>>   You can slap those anchors with your hand.   A nice high five then sit on that harness.   


>>   Yes!   

>>   Oh wow!   

>>   I'm so proud of you.   You did so good!   

>>   Thank you.   Thank you for the encouragement.   

[Music playing.]     

Thank you.   Wow!   That was really tough but like you feel really good about yourself whenever you do something.   I'm not going to lie to you, there were a few times where I was like, I'm not sure I can do this.   And my fingertips are raw.   

>>   Yeah.   

>>   But, it is like you said.   It is a full body high.   

>>   It is an endorphin release.   Right?   

>>   I'm so high!   Really.   

>>   It is you know, all physical exercise you do gets an endorphin kick.   It is invigorating.   We were joking earlier. It is therapy.   I have a stressful job.   Everyone has stressful jobs and lives and kids at home and finances.   To me, climbing taps into the primal nervous system.   You are not thinking of anything else except your breath, your muscles, your bones, yeah.   And nature is all around you.   Yeah.   

>>   It is like Russ was saying.   You just zone out.   I mean you are doing something that is mind and body and you can't really think of anything else.    It is nice to disengage from other stuff and focus on this one task.   The nature aspect of it too is so cool.   You get up here to a new height that you climbed yourself.    You got up here.   You didn't drive up here.   You didn't walk.   You earned this view.   It's invigorating.   

>>   Yeah.   

>>   I feel like I am in one of those 5 Gum commercials.   This is how it feels to chew 5 Gum.   Oh wow.


>>   I love it too because you go to these beautiful places here in Missouri and out west.   You see these big mountain vistas or big rock faces or whatever.   Everyone is out there and they have their picture and cameras or whatever and then they drive off.   For us, it is like, that is amazing I am going to get on that thing.   

>>   Yeah!   I'm gonna climb it.   I'm gonna experience it.   

>>   Yeah, experience it.   

>>   Like really experiencing it.   What is your favorite climb?   

>>   Whatever one I am on at the moment.   

>>   Aw, I love that answer!   Every time you climb must be the best day ever.   

>>   Everyday climbing is the best day.   

>>   Were you nervous the first time you climbed?   What were you thinking?   

>>   Yeah, I'm sure what you just felt right?   

>>   It was a lot.   There were so many emotions at once.   My foot goes here but are you sure it goes here?   I was definitely stronger on my right side than my left.   I feel a little   . . . yeah.   

>>   I love that we are having this conversation about 30 feet off the ground.   

>>   I know.   I won't lie to you.   It wasn't the heights that freaked me out.   It was the footing.   

>>   It is an insecure footing.   It is not a typical ladder where you just grab it straight down and pull.   It is sideways.   Oh man, that was funny.   What did you even ask me?   I forget what the question was.   

>>   What was going through your mind the first time you climbed?   What did you think about it?   

>>   The first time I climbed, I didn't know I couldn't believe it.   I had what you are experiencing right now.   The connection between my hands, my toes, and my head all at the same moment.   I had never felt that before.   

>>   Yes, and the sense of accomplishment after you do it.   


>>   Yeah, it is very empowering.   Oh my gosh, I didn't know I could do it.   Now I did.   That will stick with you for a long time.   

>>   I will remember this.   Thank you for allowing me to have this.   This is insane.   I am proud of myself.   I can't believe I was up there.   

[Music playing.]     

>>   Alright, guys, I want to hear about the BETA fund and that organization's role in rock climbing and getting this rock climbing wall here at Rockwoods Conservation.   How did that all come to be?   

>>   Our goal is to open and preserve rock climbing areas.   Existing rock climbing areas that are already open we want to make sure the access stays open, sustainable and is safe for people to go to.   We also want to open new climbing areas.   We know there are other cliffs that exist that aren't open to climbing.   

We are working with agencies like MDC, or DNR or even with the forest services trying to open areas that have been historically closed and aren't official climbing areas and try to make them open.   This is one of those areas we worked with MDC to try to get it opened.   That is what Kevin and I do.   Kevin has been doing it longer than I have.   You worked here before.   Your history of trying to get it opened predates me.   

>>   Yeah this has been a long project.   I remember talking to people back in 2005 almost.   It has been almost 20 years.   Just selling the idea that climbing is a legitimate use on these public lands and like any activity whether you are hunting, fishing, whether you are up in a tree stand or on a boat there is risk with everything you do.   There is risk with climbing and you work through it to make people comfortable and understand what the activity actually is, which is legitimate use of the outdoor area.   

>>   There has been a stigma because there are action movies like cliffhanger and vertical and you see these unrealistic things of what climbing is.   And we ask, hey, we would like to open up a rock climbing and they are like, you want to open up what again?   


That is all their purview is so it is trying to get education of what rock climbing actually is, how safe it is and really letting them know what the risk is and how it correlates to what hunting is.   Most of the MDC staff understands what hunting is, what fishing is, what boating is and trying to relate that to something that is   connecting them to understand so they can understand what the risk really is and understand how we are mitigating some of those risks.    That is what we have been doing with this climbing area.   That is what has been the long process to get this open.   

>>   So what has the response been like since this place opened in 2021?   

>>   It has been amazing.   This is the closest outdoor climbing space for the St. Louis metropolitan area.   Any other place is at least an hour and a half if not 2-3 hours away.   People can come in before work, get a few laps in and get on with their day.   Or even after work.   It has been a huge improvement for the climbing community here.   Otherwise they would be stuck inside     

>>   Does the BETA fund have any other projects on the horizon?   

>>   Always.   It is never ending.   Right now a lot of our projects are focused on the Missouri state parks.   We also have recently opened up Washington State Park for climbing.   Missouri State Parks is doing a program called learn to climb where they are taking people climbing out at Johnson's Shut Ins state park.   We are working on an event right now, possibly a night bouldering opportunity at Elephant Rock State Park.   

We do a lot.   Of course there are always interesting bluffs on state conservation land.   We are continually working with landowners and everyone.   

>>   Something else I wanted to bring up since we did see a few other climbers out here this morning.   Can you briefly tell me about climbing etiquette?   A little bit about being respectful if you are sharing the space?   

>>   Like any outdoor group any time you come to a place, you bring things with you.   You need to be respectful to other climbers.   It is different from hiking.   Hiking you are constantly moving from one place to another, or maybe you stop for lunch for a minute.   

But with climbing, you are in one place for hours at a time.   You always keep your area clean.   You don't have ropes all over the place.   You don't occupy routes that you are not climbing.   You don't hang a rope and leave it for hours.   Clean up after yourself.   Keep the walkways clear.   Pack in and pack out all your trash.   Leave no trace principles.   Really just good trail etiquette applies to climbing.   No music or craziness.   Keep your dogs on a leash.   Follow the rules of the area and stuff.   


>>   Absolutely.   Well, you guys have been climbing together for a long time.   You have known each other for a long time.   I would think that bonds you together.   You have a close relationship.   You must make a lot of good friendships along the way.   

>>   We connect with people all the time.   I was chatting with those two that were here.   This is a really cool area.   Yes, it is close to St. Louis but I don't think you understand the impact this has outwardly.   Those individuals are traveling on the road and here for a little bit.   One is headed back to Denver, and the other to New Mexico.   They are stopping to get their fix for climbing and outdoors while they are here and then moving on.   It is a good stopping point for people traveling throughout the country.   It is cool.   

You get to meet those individuals and have single serving friends if you will.   Hopefully we will pass along the way.   

>>   Rock climbing brings everyone together!   

>>   That's what we've been saying for all these years 

>>   I love it.   If someone is listening to this and they are like, man, Kevin and Russ are enthusiastic.   I need to get out and rock climb but I don't know what to do.   What resources should they reach out to?   Where do they go?   What do they do? 

>>   Yeah, so most of the metropolitan areas in Missouri have climbing gyms.   Here in St. Louis, there are four gyms.   In the central region, I think a gym just opened in the Columbia area.   Kansas city has a couple, Springfield has a couple.   The gyms are great spots to meet people and learn.   It is a safe environment on plastic holds.   A lot of those gyms also do what they call gym to crag.   They will teach you ethics and safety.   They will take those skills from inside and transfer them outside.   There are also guides in their region.   Vertical voyages is one of them.   


There is no guiding on Missouri Department of Conservation property.   So if any guides, it will be on other property.   It could be state parks or forest service or federal lands.   The gyms are really the best in getting connected and learning.     

>>   Universities have them.   I mean, even local health centers have put in climbing walls and stuff.   It is a good place to get connected to somebody that gives an idea to top rope belay.   If you go to an established gym they will show you how to lead belay.   A lot of good gyms will do gym to crag courses.   The difference between being in the gym versus being outside.   Being good stewards of the outside leave no trace.   In a gym, you have someone cleaning up behind you.   So you want to make sure you are not doing the same things inside a gym as you are outside.   

>>   Absolutely.   That seems like a good starting point for a newbie.   

Okay, one final question for you guys.   Favorite climb in Missouri.   

>>   We were joking up on the wall, right?   Any climb I am on is my favorite.   

>>   I love that answer.   

>>   There is a bouldering route out at Elephant Rocks State Park   called Tablecloth.   For those climbers that know what Tablecloth is, it is stellar.   

>>   I will give you the history of that climb.   That is another project we did there.   The reason it is named Tablecloth is because there used to be picnic tables below the boulder route.   

One of the things we work with when we talk to the state parks is can we move those tables somewhere else and get rid of that so it is just an established climbing area.   So we removed them.   It could still be called Tablecloth, but there is no table there anymore.   

>>   I love the story behind that.   That makes a lot of sense.   

>>   It makes sense.   Why is it called Tablecloth?   It used to have tables there but they have been removed.     

>>   I am glad you explained that.   Okay, your favorite climb in Missouri.   

>>   Probably my favorite is at Elephant Rocks as well.   It is a boulder called Proud Mary.   

>>   I haven't done that one yet.   

>>   It is scary.   It is memorable.   The scenery around it.   It is a boulder on top of the mountain at Elephant Rocks.   The scenery is really cool.   If you get to the crux of it, you get to look around like you did up here and see the full area.   It is one of those rewarding things when you get to the first part you feel like you finally made it.   


>>    I will leave those scary ones for you guys.   

Alright, well I really appreciate both of you for teaching me the ropes here.   Pun intended.   This has seriously been an incredible experience.   I owe it both to you guys and the BETA fund.   If anybody wants to learn more about the BETA fund what do you recommend?   

>>   We have our social channels on of course Facebook, Instagram, and then of course our web page betafund.org.   

>>   Wonderful.   Awesome.   Thanks, guys.   

I can't begin to express my gratitude to Kevin, Russ, and the BETA fund.   I have said it dozens of times, but again, this was one of the rewarding and coolest experiences I have ever had.   I owe it all to their instruction, generosity and they gave me one whole day in September.   They gave me their time, support, and encouragement.   It made such a difference.   Despite how little I knew, they coached me in the best way possible.   

I got to say, they were right.   I kinda got the rock climbing bug now.   I really want to try it again.   It is actually really fun.   

Learn more about the BETA fund and how they are protecting outdoor resources for rock climbing on their website at betafund.org.   And check out MDC's climbing wall at Rockwoods Conservation.   You can learn more about that at missouriconservation.org.   

I am Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors!   

[End podcast.]   

>>   Kevin, I love you!   Everything is awesome!   Your enthusiasm is infectious.   I love it.   Oh yeah, they are bleeding.   That's great.   

>>   You're working now.   

>>   We are doing the dirtiest jobs and Kevin's teeth are all brown from smiling all the time.   

>>   I love it.