On Sunday, April 29, we took advantage of the rainy weather to spend some time indoors for once! But we weren't just sitting around...we were climbing.
A group of 12 students from Harlem Lacrosse Boston, along with 2 of their mentors, Peter and Carly, joined Elevate Youth for a trip to Rock Spot Climbing gym in South Boston. When the group arrived, the kids were filled with mixed emotions; nervous, a little anxious, but mostly excited. Only one of the kids had climbed before, the rest had never stepped into a climbing gym, but this didn't stop them from jumping into their harnesses and slipping on their climbing shoes to eagerly await instruction.
We gathered everyone around the climbing wall in order to watch Mik and James, our Rock Spot instructor's, demonstrate how to clip into the auto-belay. Once they went through the basics, the kids practically ran to the open ropes in order to clip themselves in and get on the wall.
Some of the kids were naturals - every time I turned around they were at the top of a different wall! Other kids took some time to warm up; heights turned out to be a popular fear among the group. However, once the kids realized they could trust the auto belay to bring them gently to the ground if they let go of the wall, no one seemed to remember that they didn't like being high off the ground. Even Shayla, who insisted she couldn't climb higher than 4 feet because she was afraid, ended up reaching the top of a wall after only 30 minutes of climbing.
After spending an hour on top-rope climbing, the kids took off their harnesses and we switched over to bouldering, which is climbing shorter walls without the support of a harness or rope. To make things more interesting, the instructor's organized a little friendly competition. They divided the group into two and put a line of tape down the wall to define two clear sections. Whenever a member of one group made it to the top, they were able to mark a rock on the other side of the divider, which meant that the other team could not use that rock to get to the top. As more rocks were deemed unusable, the game got harder and harder, until each group decided it was impossible to reach the top of their section. Not only was the game high energy and a lot of fun, it also allowed the kids to work on mental preparation, strategy, and teamwork, and it exemplified the camaraderie of the group at the end of the day.
After two hours at the gym, we took off our climbing shoes and headed to the gear room to debrief and do some shout-outs. These mostly consisted of the kids shouting out their peers for giving climbing a try despite a fear of heights, which was awesome for us to hear. The kids were definitely exhausted after a solid 2 hours of constant climbing, but they all agreed they had an amazing time because they got to try something totally new and work towards overcoming a fear, which is exactly what Elevate Youth strives for on every outing.