First-graders Wade Fortson and Tyla Johnson scale the new climbing wall at South Routt Elementary School on Friday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

First-graders Wade Fortson and Tyla Johnson scale the new climbing wall at South Routt Elementary School on Friday.

Elementary school rocks out

Climbing wall adds new dimension to physical education


— First-grader Louden Kirby might like South Routt Elementary School's new rock climbing wall "too much," he said as he clung to handholds Friday.

"My hands get lumps on them," he said, showing off his budding calluses. Louden then scampered his way up the wall and called for physical education teacher Artie Weber's attention, turning around and smiling when he reached the top.

Even the more timid first-graders appeared to be having a blast as they anxiously awaited their turns on the climbing wall during round-robin physical education exercises.

"It's a little bit scary but pretty fun," Hannah Hohenstein said as she navigated back and forth on the center of the wall, never venturing too far from the safety mats.

"It's high enough for elementary school," Weber said, keeping a close eye on a pair of first-grade boys who seemed to prefer clinging to the top of the wall rather than its molded handholds.

"Go slow - only the bigger rocks," Weber cautioned, as students climbed up, down and around on the wall and took an occasional spill onto the mats.

The new wall was paid for by donations from the Legacy Education Foundation, the South Routt High School Epycs Club and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. Weber began seeking funding last year.

The climbing wall, made by Mendota Heights, Minn.-based Everlast Climbing Industries, was installed Tuesday night, with the delays occurring because of the complex state permission process for such equipment, Weber said.

"The people that donated funds were really terrific. They had a lot of patience with the process, because it took awhile," Weber said.

Students got their safety orientation for the wall Thursday, and by the following day it already was the highlight of physical education. First-graders came bounding into the gym Friday afternoon and made a beeline for the climbing wall.

"I taught 'em how to keep three points on the wall - one foot and two hands, or two feet and one hand," Weber said. "No swinging on it or jumping off."

The climbing wall adds another "nontraditional" option for physical education at South Routt Elementary School, Weber said, noting that variety is key because it allows each student to find something he or she likes and is good at.

South Routt Elementary School's fourth-graders hiked at Fish Creek Falls earlier this month, and they will get to take snowshoe trips to the Flat Tops this winter. In addition to helping improve the students' balance and coordination, the climbing wall is an activity that can be done year-round in the gym, Weber said.

"This is a challenge by choice. They go as high or as low as they want to be, as long as they're safe and a teacher is present to assist," Weber said. "The kids are nice to each other about it - they encourage each other."

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail


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