Rock climbing wall slated for early summer

WORTHINGTON -- A rock climbing wall will be coming to the Worthington Area YMCA by early summer, funded through a private donation from Jay and Lisa Milbrandt and Robert and Patricia Ludlow.

Shown is a basic rendering of the rock climbing wall that will be added to the Worthington Area YMCA. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - A rock climbing wall will be coming to the Worthington Area YMCA by early summer, funded through a private donation from Jay and Lisa Milbrandt and Robert and Patricia Ludlow.


The 28-foot-high, 16-foot-wide wall will feature four main climbing paths, all of which have varying difficulties based on the different types and positions of handholds.


The versatility of the climbing wall lends itself to be used by people of all ages and levels of experience, according to Health and Fitness Director Cory Greenway.



“You could potentially have a child climb one section on an easier route, and on that same section a more advanced climber could go up the same path, just using different hand holds and positions,” Greenway said.


It will also include two manual belay systems and two automatic belay systems. Climbers who become certified would be able to climb using the automatic system without needing someone to spot them, said Worthington Area YMCA Executive Director Andy Johnson.


“There will be opportunities as people become certified as a belayer and climber,” Johnson said. “They would be able to come in during open climb times.”


An experienced climber who spends a ton of time scaling cliffs in Blue Mounds State Park, Jay Milbrandt thought a climbing wall would be a great addition to the community that will benefit most age groups.



“I think there’s definitely a desire to see new amenities and things to do in Worthington,” Milbrandt said. “Certainly among the younger people I work with, and the kids and students in town, there’s a desire for more things to do.


“The fantastic thing about this wall is it’s going to offer something for everyone. If you’re just starting, if you want to climb alone, or if you’ve been climbing like I have for 15 years and you’re looking for advanced training to do all winter, it’s got it all.”


The rock climbing wall will be the first of its kind in the region that is accessible by the public. The closest similar climbing walls are a lengthy drive away.


“We really have a market where the YMCA can pull people in from surrounding communities such as Marshall and Sioux Falls - something that can bring some tourism to Worthington,” Milbrandt said.



Greenway was excited to create programs with the new wall, noting that it would be a great tool for encouraging kids to set and achieve their own goals.


“Rock climbing has an intrinsic value to kids when it comes to setting goals and achieving them,” Greenway said. “With rock climbing it’s, ‘I want to get to the top. OK, I did that, now I want to try a different route or a harder route.’ Individually, you see these goals and accomplish them.”


Johnson added that the exercise was about more than climbing a wall, and helped with overcoming fears and building confidence.


“For some people, it’s ‘I can't do that, there’s no way I go climb to the top, I’m too afraid,’” Johnson said. “We’re excited about going in and talking about building self-confidence and overcoming fears, doing teamwork activities and group work, so we’re really thinking about this much deeper than fun and climbing walls.”


The YMCA will be reaching out to schools, colleges and churches to make it available once it is complete.


“We’ll also use terminology that’s familiar to the community - so we'll have open climb times, family climb times, and a rock climbing schedule similar to a gym schedule or pool schedule,” Greenway said.

Greenway added the YMCA will hire staff to help run the wall, and will be seeking volunteers to go through the belay certification program.

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