Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aiguille Rock Climbing Center

I went to Aiguille Rock Climbing Center (999 Charles Street, Longwood) in the early afternoon. As I drove up, I noticed a group of high school students walking down the street in the same direction. I guessed that they were going to climb after school. I was right. The manager behind the counter asked if I planned to climb. I replied, "No, I'm here to sketch." I explained to her about the blog. Her only warning was that I couldn't step on a blue mat without lessons. There are picnic tables set up for observers so the place is perfectly set up for artists.

Several men were being taught how to use the ropes and harnesses. They had to learn several knots and how to safely use the equipment. Dozens of green ropes draped down from thick sewer PVC tubes suspended by two by fours. No one actually supported their weight in this training area. The rock climbing center is housed in a huge warehouse. Large false rock walls thrust up to the ceiling along the longest wall creating a man made canyon. After the basic rope training the newbies were walked up to the face of a wall. They climbed for the first time under the watchful eyes of an instructor. Safety and climbing etiquette were stressed again and again. One of the climbers got rambunctious and started kicking himself away from the wall, like you might see in a Rambo movie. The instructor calmly explained that he was taking unnecessary risks. One climber had done that too much and ended up crashing through the wall. He wasn't injured too bad.

In a training area a muscular climber hung upside down from a chin up bar. He pointed his toes and shifted his legs from one side to the other using his abdomen muscles. Damn, I feel flabby, at least my fingers are getting a workout. A large group of climbers sat around a short central wall where they could test their climbing skills without getting too high. Fingers and palms were coated in chalk and then they would try to climb up an inverted groove. The plastic finger holds must be moved around often since someone was drilling new ones into the walls as I worked. Strips of red tape seemed to mark hold placements. Plenty of people fell as they challenged themselves. At one cliff like overhang one climber hung suspended by one arm, his legs swinging like a pendulum until he thrust his free arm up to a crevice.

It seemed like this was a regular ritual for many of the people here. Landing flat on your back wasn't something that slowed these climbers down. They would dust themselves off, laugh about it and anxiously wait for the next chance to climb the overhang. This sport seemed to require concentration, strength, patience and an innate knowledge of how to push the boundaries where some might feel fear. Even the staff undergoes rigorous training. There is always something new to learn. No climber is perfect, they are all humbled by gravity.

I didn't climb, I was having too much fun sketching, but I can now put this on my bucket list of things I'd like to try. I think I need to work on my abs and arm strength. I'll keep lifting that heavy art satchel till I'm ready.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Aubrey said...

Thank you so much for sharing your art with out climbing world. This is incredible and I, for one, would love you have you back any time.

Anonymous said...

Saw you there! I was one of those high schoolers. =-)

Anonymous said...

very cool