Climbing class for Cal students

Grade 10 and 11 students at Caledonia Secondary School started off the school year facing an uphill battle

At Kalum Craig on Sept. 20

Grade 10 and 11 students at Caledonia Secondary School started off the school year facing an uphill battle – or rather  an up-mountain battle as their first unit saw them rock climbing in and around the Terrace area.

Rec teacher Benjamin Mattheis continued his class tradition of showing students the ropes of northwest fitness with this year’s class.

This is not the first year students have been introduced to rock climbing, but it is the first year it was taught as a unit.

The teens spent a couple of weeks learning about the safe use of climbing gear, knot tying, repelling and proper belaying techniques.

Belaying techniques are an integral part of safe climbing, as it is the act of anchoring the climber to the rock. Belayers are the people who stand below the climber holding the rope, anchoring them and feeding the climber the right amount of rope at the right time. Advanced climbers can eventually practise self-belaying.

“But the main reason for doing this is to show kids how lucky they are to live in Terrace,” said Mattheis.

After a couple of in-class sessions, the class headed to Kalum Craig for their first on-site climb on Sept. 20.

Local climber Andrew Johnstone, who has taken students out climbing in the past, helped Mattheis set up the ropes for this  group’s first climb.

“The students’ were very excited about this trip and it was a beautiful day,” said Mattheis.

“It’s important for students to have exposure to the outdoor activities like this that community members have been involved with for years, but few know how to get started.”

The class also travelled to Kitselas Craig the week after, furthering their exposure to the sport.

In the unit, students get used to trusting each other and being up high, as well as respecting the rock and heights.

And if students want to continue climbing after the unit is finished, there aren’t many barriers in terms of equipment, said Mattheis.

“Two harnesses, a rope, shoes,” said Mattheis, noting that there is a rich climbing culture here that the kids can be a part of.

With past classes, Mattheis has also been working on fundraising to build a bouldering wall at the school for student and community use. To date, $14,000 has been raised and the engineers are almost done with the drawings for the wall.

“Over the last two years we have received money, services, and material from Rona, Solstice Rock Guides, both of the Rotary clubs of Terrace, McElhanney, the City of Terrace, Grad committee of 2011, various fundraisers and an anonymous donor,” he said.

“We are at the end of the fundraising now working on money for the construction costs. A couple more harnesses and other pieces of equipment will also be needed,” he said. “We’re almost there.”