FORT BLISS, Texas - The Soldier Activity Center features a 23-foot indoor rock-climbing wall equipped with padded flooring, auto-belays, plastic holds and artificial cliffs where women in the Fort Bliss community attended a free indoor rock-climbing instructional course titled “Women on Rope” Dec. 3.
The Southwest Adventure Team instructed the third iteration of the climbing course to help women improve their strength and fitness. The course was held for all women to learn in a comfortable environment from beginners to intermediate sport climbers.
“Climbing is a predominately male sport, and we wanted to provide women the opportunity to learn together in an environment with less intimidation,” said Kenneth Coppedge, Fort Bliss Outdoor Recreation program manager, who instructed the class with the help of Greg Mai, recreational aide.
“The women encourage each other to try harder when climbing becomes frightening for beginners,” said Coppedge, who encourages women to mingle and feed off of each other’s energy. “We are willing to meet them where they are (in their technical climbing skill) and give them instructions to improve or challenge them.”
During the class females learned to put on a harness and fix a figure-eight knot used in belay climbing. Instructions also included proper use of climbing aids, proper climbing techniques and helpful climbing vernacular.
Rock climbing requires strength and balance, and climbers need a good strength-to-weight ratio – this is why women can be very skilled climbers, explained Coppedge.
During the course women learn how to use their bodies to be more effective climbers. While using a straight arm hold and pushing up with their legs women can climb farther and longer.
Women climbers attended the course with friends and made more friends during the class.
Neysa Hardin, an avid climber, attended to improve her skills in bouldering, top roping and sport climbing.
“Belaying in an indoor facility is a totally different experience than outdoors,” said Hardin.
Each female was strapped into a harness to try her hand at climbing the wall. They assisted one another by identifying different plastic holds and steps along the wall, making it easier to learn the fundamentals of climbing.
“I wanted to practice the basics of climbing,” said Nicole Mora, a Fort Bliss military spouse. “(During the course), I learned how to belay, and how to use a step–through climbing technique, and I feel more comfortable having someone give me verbal directions (while I climb), such as ‘step left’ or ‘step right.'”
"I will recommend this class to any of my friends who want to learn climbing,” said Mora, after completing a partner-belay on the indoor wall.
The recreational activity center is available to all active duty military, military retirees, civilian employees and family members at least 18 years old. Equipment available for check out at the center includes: harness, climbing shoes, carabiners and ropes. The Southwest Adventure team encourages safety and camaraderie.