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Supplement to “Weekend Rock Warriors”

“A lot of the growing popularity of rock climbing is due to indoor gyms, which allow folks to start younger and get good instruction on an artificial surface before they go outdoors,” says Chris Parker, a confirmed climbing “addict” who drives from Knoxville on weekends to the Red River Gorge, a world-class climbers’ mecca in Kentucky’s Appalachians.

“The good news is, anyone can climb,” says Greg Houston, representative for cutting-edge climbing gear manufacturer Petzl. “Weight and size make no difference.”

Pint-sized Whitney Boland is a case in point. Scooting up rocks seemingly without effort, the former gymnast climbs well enough to earn sponsorships.

“Climbing has taught me some good life lessons, like how to react in situations where you have to keep your cool and make hard decisions on the spot,” she says.

People climb for a slew of reasons. Those who become fans find a myriad of benefits.

A former skier, Victoria Pietras took up climbing last year at 49 after recovering from breaking both legs in a skiing accident. Her daughter, a champion teen climber, drives with friends to the Gorge from Chicago most weekends.

“I love the workout I get from climbing,” says Pietras. “As a parent, I like the fact that Kasia’s hanging out with good people. They don’t go to the mall and watch TV like other teenagers. They don’t drink or smoke because they want to be in shape. These kids have passion and that’s uncommon these days. They do their homework and go to the gym to climb. They’re more mature than most teens.”

Knoxville climber Rick Bost appreciates the like-mindedness of most climbers. “It’s the only sport where I can succeed, and you can succeed. Or I can fail and she can succeed, but her success doesn’t depend on my failure.”

A forensic chemist, Jodi Bailey journeys from Grayson to the Gorge nearly every weekend with her boyfriend. “You have to take care of yourself and stay healthy to climb. It’s inspiring. My friends complain because I disappear on weekends. There’s no cell service where I go, and I like that.”

To read the Kentucky Living April 2007 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Weekend Rock Warriors

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