Rocking on at post rock walls
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Rocking on at post rock walls
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There are many ways people can get out, be active and stay fit. It's not all about running around a track or pumping iron.

The Directorate of Family and Moral, Welfare and Recreation maintains three rock climbing walls on Fort Riley.

Sarah Mueller, branch chief for recreation, said the walls at the Outdoor Adventure Center and Whitside Fitness center both have automatic belay systems. This allows people to go in and use the equipment without a certified belayer on site to control the safety rope for a climber.

Her staff are all certified, which allows them to host climbing events at Craig Fitness Center, where there is not an automatic belay system.

"There are limitations at Craig Center right now because there is not an auto belay system," said Tanya Henigman, supervisory sport specialist, DFMWR.

The walls have different levels of difficulty, but she has had a child as young as 3 give the wall a try.

"He went up about a foot and was done," Mueller said. "Most of the time, the younger kids, all they want us to do is pick them up so they can dangle in the air."

There are no age limits on the walls, but there are weight requirements. A person must weigh at least 35 pounds but not more than 310.

Spc. Liam Maher, 1st Infantry Division Artillery, recently discovered how much fun the wall at Whitside can be. He said he became intrigued with rock climbing after watching a National Geographic documentary with Alex Honnold who free climbed Yosemite National Park's El Capitan. Maher had hiked in Yosemite and spoke with rock climbers. So, when a friend invited him to go to Whitside and try the wall there, it was an offer he couldn't pass up.

"I was a little apprehensive at first," he said. "But then when I started doing it, it just really made me want to keep going because there are bells at the top, and it's just human nature to want to go all the way up and ring every single one of them."

He started with the easiest climb and mastered that. That's all it took to hook him. The day after his first rock climbing experience he talked Spc. Joseph Polis, also with DIVARTY, into going with him.

"All day he's been talking about it," Polis said. "I've been like 'no, I just don't want to do it.' Peer pressure, he got me to do it and once I did, I was like 'this is enjoyable.'"

He took a few tips from Maher, but together they are learning what it takes to maneuvering up to the wall. Besides having good grip strength, Maher said what he learned right away is the need to keep the body against the wall.

"If you're not hugging the wall," he said. "It's a lot harder on you if you're leaning out. You've got to contort your body in these weird positions just to get up and over some of these ledges.

Although he admits he is a complete novice, he is learning and has his sights set on more difficult climbs -- possibly even tackling a mountain.

"Somewhere where you can basically fall to your death and no one will ever find you," he said laughing. "There's kind of an appeal to that I guess."

For now, though, he's satisfied with falling while tethered to ropes so he can safely land on the bottom.