Apr 7, 2009

Rise Up Climbing

by Tim Mattingly

Chalk-stained fingers wearily cling to a wall, vertically sprawling above its would-be climber. Various handgrips litter the upward landscape, acting as both aid and challenger. The victorious “top out,” while the defeated quite literally fall short of their goals.

Thus, rope is a man’s (and a woman’s) best friend at Rise Up Climbing, 1225 Church Street, in downtown Lynchburg. Once these “life-lines” remove certain paralysis and death from the equation, a climber’s second best friend at Rise Up is Dan Hague, who made this unique climbing experience possible.

“My hope is to provide a fitness and recreation alternative by creating a vibrant climbing community in Lynchburg,” Hague said.

As well as being the Chairman of the Climbing Wall Association’s Operational Standards Committee, Hague has over 35 years of rock climbing and 13 years of instructional experience. In 1993, he established Sportrock Climbing Centers in Washington, D.C. and in 11 years transformed it into the “east-coasts largest climbing company,” according to the Climbing Wall Management Web site.

Hague left Sportrock Climbing and moved to Lynchburg in 2004.

“As Mother Teresa advised someone once, I grew where I was planted,” Hague said
And Rise Up has grown as well. It took a year for Hague to find the location in Lynchburg to plant his new climbing gym, he said. Once located, construction continued for a year and a half, until Rise Up finally opened its doors on Sept. 27, 2008.

Already it has surpassing its growth goals despite the nation being in a recession, according to Hague. A portion of that growth comes in the form of Liberty students, such as freshman Taryn Epperson and junior Moses Champoonote.

“Rise up is a very social place where climbers meet not only to practice their sport but also to share the experience with other,” Hague said.

At the gym, Epperson, a climber of seven years, met and became friends with Champoonote who just started climbing five months ago, when he joined Rise Up. Now they both attend the gym an average of five days a week, going for hours at a time, while taking on some of Rise Up’s more difficult climbing challenges.

One such challenge comes in the form of bouldering, which involves short distance but high intensity, harness-free climbing. The physically challenging boulder routes are called “problems,” which, for Epperson, provide more than just a good workout. For her, problems are a way of dealing with life’s problems.

“I just find it awesome, how I can work on things in my life through bouldering problems,” Epperson said.
And while Champoonote says he generally goes to the gym for the “intense challenge” and social environment, he also utilizes the various styles of climbing offered at Rise Up to help himself relax.

“Rock climbing is my way out,” he said. “A way to free myself from all the commotion and drama of life.”
Other forms of climbing at the gym include top rope climbing, where previously placed ropes dangle from above for individuals to tie into. After securing a figure-eight knot, climbers can ascend the wall with the assistance of a belayer — the individual who controls the slack and tension on the rope.

For more advanced climbers, lead climbing is an option. This style puts an individual’s rope in his own hands when he scales the wall, clipping into anchors as he goes, as someone else belays from below.

“Leading allows you to attempt the steepest of climbs which cannot be top roped and is the truest type of ascent,” states the Rise Up Web site, riseupclimbing.com.

Being able to practice this “truest form” requires training class, which are provided at the gym. While leading is one of the more advanced classes offered at Rise Up, there are also educational offerings for beginners and even kids. Climbing without proper training is dangerous, as Hague explains.

“Rise up is a training and practice facility for climbers and not an amusement,” he said. “We do, however, offer a number of programs designed to help non-climbers acquire the skills necessary to use our facility.”

Through such training classes, new climbers are encouraged to come in Rise Up, get on the wall and attain their climbing goals. But the ultimate goal does not rest in an indoor gym, Epperson explains — the ultimate goal is outdoor climbing on real rocks. With the lead climbing class at Rise Up under their belts, both Epperson and Champoonote went on a weekend camping trip, putting their skills to the test on the rocks at the New River Gorge Mountain in Summersville, W. Va.
“Rock climbing is a physical and mental challenge that builds strength and endurance, mental agility and toughness, and engenders trust and camaraderie among the participants,” Hague said. “Above all, climbing is fun, and why not enjoy your physical activity?”

Contact Tim Mattingly at


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