By Amanda Dyslin
---- — MANKATO — The new rock-climbing wall in Myers Field House at Minnesota State University is a pretty popular indoor adventure activity that draws folks in from around the region.
But now that summer is upon us, the outdoors seem even more appealing. Luckily, MSU has a lesser-known outdoor rock-climbing option on campus that has been around for even longer than the indoor wall.
For a couple of years the four-sided, 35-foot Outdoor Pinnacle has stood on land behind the former Gage Complex, and it's developed a fan base of its own. The first fall it was open, 650 people came to use it, said Sam Steiger, program coordinator of the Adventure Education Program.
And that's not just students, said summer intern Micah DeLong. The wall is open to people of any age; children just need an adult present.
The wall was built to accommodate and challenge a variety of climbers. The structure includes “natural features,” like the crevices a person would encounter on a real wall in nature.
“Beginners are great out there because there are a lot of natural places for hands and feet,” DeLong said. “We set routes on the wall, and there are different difficulty levels.”
There are three staff members on at all times to offer training and to help hold climbers with ropes.
“We facilitate for all levels of climbing. It's a great intro wall,” he said. “It's a great way to get your family involved.”
In the same area behind where Gage stood is a ropes course that's become popular for groups, DeLong said. School groups, sororities and fraternities, sports teams, businesses, organizations and others book time slots (a minimum of four hours is recommended), and Adventure Ed plans a program for them.
The program usually includes a combination of low-level and high-level ropes activities that focus on teamwork, communication and leadership activities.
Unlike the wall, the ropes course isn't a pay-to-play activity, so individuals and families can't come out and climb for fun. It's meant for groups that have set goals and reserve time, DeLong said.
MSU's experiential education program also uses the course for class work.
DeLong said programs are available to groups to combine use of the rock-climbing wall and the ropes course.
Both are usually open through early October and reopens in the spring, although the Gage implosion caused both to be off limits for a couple of weeks.
Use of the wall will be open again July 13.
Steiger said last spring that both walls on campus create a unique recreational opportunity that people can't get many other places.
“I've been excited about it because there's no climbing opportunities, for the most part, from the Cities to Iowa,” said Steiger, who has about 20 years experience in the adventure education industry, including rock-climbing in southern California.
Construction of the $150,000 indoor wall by Nicros Inc. took place last spring and was completed in July. The 2,000 square-foot wall can hold 12 climbers at once and has a foam landing surface at its base.
Staff in the Adventure Education Program at MSU had proposed the indoor wall after the completion of the outdoor wall the summer before.
The program was granted the $150,000 from the university through One-Time Reinvestment Funding. The outdoor wall cost $150,000 and was funded through Institutional Equipment and Repair and Replacement Funding.
If You Go What Outdoor Pinnacle rock-climbing wall and Ropes Course, operated by the Adventure Education Program through the Office of Campus Recreation Where On the campus of Minnesota State University, south of the former Gage Towers, through parking lot No. 1, at the end of the road leading past the intramural sports fields. Parking Available near the ropes course for participants in AEP events. Cost Ropes course -- $40 per hour, per facilitator. (For example, if you schedule four hours with 30 students, the program rate would be $40 per hour times three facilitators times 4 hours = $480) Rock-climbing for community members -- Child Day Pass, $8; regular day pass, $12; one-month pass, $30; four-month pass, $60; eight-month pass, $110; one-year pass, $150; four-month family pass, $150 Reservations Ropes course reservations are encouraged a minimum of three weeks in advance. No deposit is required. Info AEP@mnsu.edu; 389-5435; www.mnsu.edu/adventure; www.facebook.com/mnsuadventure/