LUVERNE -- There’s a thrill associated with rock climbing. But there’s also a tenderness that goes along with the coaxing of first-time climbers.
Jeremiah LeTourneau, who teaches math at Worthington High School and is an assistant coach with the wrestling team, climbs almost every chance he gets. He also instructs and encourages young climbers -- and that includes those who are a bit on the skittish side.
Recently, he was at his favorite rock climbing location in southwest Minnesota, the Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne.
A young girl above him was clearly struggling with fear as she clung to the rock face, and yet she was willing to go higher. Patiently, LeTourneau reminded her that she was safe with the cables attached to her, that he knew she could get to the top, and that he and the others on the landing were willing to wait.
Finally, she had had enough. She said she wanted to come down, but she was afraid to make the descent by herself. LeTourneau went up to get her. Safely in his arms, the girl relaxed. After she made a safe landing on firm ground, her friends asked if she wanted to try climbing again. Still with that slightly frightened look in her eyes, she nodded her head yes.
Jeremiah LeTourneau certainly looks the part of a climber. With a full beard and a wild mustache, and dressed in his climbing gear, he looks as though he might have just come down from three weeks roughing it in the mountains. He’s obviously in great shape, wiry and spritely. Good for climbing.
The Globe spoke with the teacher/outdoorsman while he led a Worthington Area YMCA group to the cliffs at Blue Mounds one afternoon. The kids clearly had fun learning from the master. Those who completed their climbs felt a real sense of accomplishment.
You can see a video of LeTourneau and his rock climbing escapades online at www.dglobe.com. Here’s a sample of the interview:
QUESTION: How did you get so hooked on rock climbing?
ANSWER: “I got into rock climbing my freshman year of college. I started out by tying ropes and making my own harnesses, and making my own rock climbing equipment. … It’s not only the sport that is very physical, but it’s really mentally relaxing. Actually, because when you’re climbing it’s really meditative. You only see what you have to do to climb, and everything else in the world goes quiet.”
QUESTION: What do new rock climbers get from the sport?
ANSWER: “The most that students get out of this sport is that they learn that it’s them that are getting success. And they are actually accomplishing something. It’s something that they can actually see and feel.”
QUESTION: What’s the future of climbing?
ANSWER: “It’s one of the fastest-growing industries for sports right now. There’s a reason why it’s in the 2020 Olympics this next year, which is really exciting for the climbing community.”