Alaska Pacific U: Winter has students climbing the walls

As college students, most of us try to find the best deals, cheapest prices and something close to home for entertainment. The Alaska Pacific University’s rock gym fits all of the criteria: It has extremely cheap prices for UAA students, it is in close proximity to the UAA campus and it is a form of entertainment that is both fun and a good workout.

The gym is located in the Atwood Center on the APU campus, the large white building where the college dorms are located. The rock wall is located in the basement and shares space with the weight room. Signs are posted and make it easy to find.

The gym itself is not very tall, no more than 15 feet. It can be set up for a top-rope but is not usually outfitted for it. It is definitely a gym geared towards bouldering, short climbs without a rope, rather than belaying, where the climber is anchored to the wall with a rope that is controlled by a partner at the bottom of the wall.

Its walls have a large variation in degrees of difficulty. Some walls are less than vertical and others have a decently sized overhang. Not all of the gym’s walls have marked routes; the routes that are marked become less noticeable as the terrain becomes easier.

The routes are all student built, so they may not be as defined the way that is standard for most rock gyms. They do have a color system and it is fairly easy to spot the range of difficulty in the routes. Some start off quite easy and become incredibly hard, while others seem impossible because of the way the handholds are set up. There are plenty of taped routes for beginners up to expert climbers.

None of the routes are rated to the Yosemite Decimal System, which is the rating system that most rock gyms use. This is because the students making the routes have their own ideas and do their best to create new and challenging paths up the wall; and these routes don’t fit into the criteria of the YDS.

The longer you stay and scope out routes and explore the wall, the more surprising it becomes. You start to understand the routes and visualize where the creators were trying to take you. Each section of the wall has, at least, a sparse covering of rocks and climbing material, while some areas are covered more liberally.

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Easy routes aren’t the strong point of this gym, they are not usually well marked and there aren’t many routes easy enough for complete beginners.

The gym is usually inhabited with several APU students practicing and enticing each other to try out more difficult routes. The low, lengthy build of the gym provides ample room for a few climbers, however if several people or groups decide to climb at the same time, you need to be ready to get friendly with the other climbers. With only two crash pads and not the softest of floors it can be hard to climb, even with just a few people sharing the wall.

A full-body workout and a cheap, rewarding thrill can be found at the Alaska Pacific University’s rock gym. It has its faults, but nothing can beat its close proximity and its prices. With winter quickly approaching, heading to a rock gym is the warmest, safest and easiest way to start climbing.

The day price for UAA students and faculty is $3.50. Renting shoes will cost $2 and a harness is $1. You can purchase a 10-punch pass for $25 and a semester pass for $45.

The prices for the general public are $4.50 for a day pass and $40 for a 10-punch pass. You can purchase a semester pass for $125 and a family of four can purchase one for $180. Rental prices remain the same as they are for students.

The gym’s hours could be one of its only downfall. The hours this semester, on weekdays, are from noon to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays are open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.