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Bouldering wall a hidden desert gem

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Daniel Martinez
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Surrounded by the desert sands perched on top of “The Rock” is an unassuming Conex box which holds one of the base’s best kept fitness secrets – a newly renovated bouldering climb wall.

Base personnel may unknowingly pass up the wall located next to the Flex Gym, but a couple of Airmen assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group hope to see that change.

“We knew what to look for it when we got here,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Luke Russell, 386th EMDG physician assistant, deployed from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. “When we popped open the Conex box we found this treasure.”

After locating and discovering that the wall required repairs, Russell and a colleague took it upon themselves to make it serviceable.

“We’ve been working on it for the last four months – little bits at a time,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Breanna Gawrys, 386th EMDG physician, deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “For about a month in the beginning, we were focused on building the new holds.”

Climbing holds, which vary in size, shape and material, are bolted onto the wall and resemble the surface areas and textures usually found along natural rock formations, mountains or cliffs. The holds can be moved to different areas along the wall to offer a variety of climbing challenges. Bouldering walls differ from climbing walls because they are usually no more than 20 feet from the ground and the climber isn’t required to use safety ropes and harnesses.  

“With bouldering you want to follow a route, it’s not just getting from the bottom to the top. You want to follow a specific set of holds and all those holds are identified with a particular marking,” Russell said. “Every time we come in here to climb, we’re always making a new route. You try to be kind of an artist in a sense because you’re setting a route for a certain type of move and difficulty.”

Climbing varieties include something as basic as moving from one hold to another or increasing the difficulty by climbing a path designated with specific markings. In this case, routes are marked with tape with different patterns and vary from “V1,” which is the easiest next to free climb, to “V3,” which is the most difficult.

Benefits of a bouldering workout include increased muscle strength, flexibility and reducing stress. According to Gawrys, the wall brings small groups together, enhancing efforts in teambuilding and resiliency. Along with the health benefits, she added that it’s also an additional fitness option for deployed personnel.

“Everyone has their own way of doing the route so it’s just a fun way for people to get together,” Gawrys said. “I think it’s more accessible to some people and maybe less intimidating than the big gym.”

Now that the secret of the wall is out, Russell hopes to see more people take advantage of it.

“We put a lot of work and sweat into it,” he said. “We hope that other people can come out here and find a love for climbing, challenge themselves and find a new hobby – anybody can do it.”