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Forget football, new wall is open.

Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

CORVALLIS - Nate Richardson had better things to do Sunday than watch the Super Bowl.

The 22-year-old Oregon State University wildlife science student spent the better part of the afternoon climbing and rappelling off what's billed as the largest university climbing wall in the Pacific Northwest.

The artificial rock wall, installed as part of the Dixon Recreation Center expansion and renovation project on the OSU campus, opened last Wednesday. Constructed of a fiberglass skin with polymer concrete surface, it looks like something out of a "Star Trek" episode or sci-fi thriller.

"I like the freedom it brings," Robinson said after descending the 42 1/2 -foot edifice. "Forty feet up there, I'm asking myself, `Why am I here?' Because I want to be."

Richardson was not alone. The half-million-dollar facility was packed Sunday with a menagerie of beginners and a smattering of seasoned climbers, including bioengineering graduate student Laila Parker, 25.

Hoping to avoid the crowd, Parker planned to swing by the wall just before the Super Bowl kickoff. No such luck.

"I guess everyone else had the same idea," she said.

Parker, who's been climbing for about 10 years, tries to hit a climbing wall three times a week to keep her skills sharp. Before the new wall debuted, she and other climbers in Corvallis had to be satisfied with a smaller wall under the grandstand at Reser Stadium.

Parker said she likes how climbing "combines balance and agility and not brute strength." Her goal is to scale Smith Rock near Redmond this summer.

The new wall features about 7,100 square feet of climbing surface, with three different textures on the walls, said Josh Norris, OSU climbing and adventure education coordinator.

That's important when it comes to bragging rights among college climbing wall aficionados. Turns out the OSU facility narrowly edges the climbing wall at the University of Washington, which measures 39 feet tall with 5,500 square feet of climbing surface, according to its manufacturer, Entre Prises USA of Bend.

The University of Idaho in Moscow claims the tallest indoor climbing wall among U.S. campuses, with an edifice that tops out at 55 feet, according to Entre Prises. But the wall there has less climbing surface than the new one in Corvallis.

In Eugene, the commercial Crux Rock Gym on West Third Avenue boasts 8,000 square feet of climbing surface - but is located a good couple of miles away from the University of Oregon campus.

Indoor climbing provides a social outlet and an avenue to a healthy lifestyle, Norris said.

"It's a great complement to weight training and cardio fitness," he said.

For some, climbing borders on religious experience. Shannon Leonard, 25, a fisheries major from Eugene, said the sport has a spiritual, Zen-like quality that she doesn't find in other physical endeavors. "Climbing is more personal," she said. "You learn that you have to push yourself a lot more."

THE WALL

Dixon Recreation Center climbing wall, OSU campus

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Cost: $6 for nonstudents, free to OSU students. Center offers instruction, family climb times and teen nights.

Information: (541) 737-3736.

VERTICAL FESTIVAL

Climbing competition for all ages and skill levels will take place Feb. 28 at the Dixon Recreation Center climbing wall, OSU campus. Call (541) 737-3736.

CAPTION(S):

Graduate student Laila Parker sharpens her skills Sunday on a section of what's being billed as the largest university climbing wall in the Northwest. The climbing wall at OSU's Dixon Recreation Center has been billed as the largest at any university in the Northwest.
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; Climbers pack OSU's vertical addition on a day others stay glued to the tube
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 2, 2004
Words:610
Previous Article:Nonprofit assumes health services.
Next Article:LOOKING BACK.


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