With all the parents taking English midterms, the kids can get respite in San Fernando at the rock-climbing wall. Past a mother pig and her ten babies, a rainbow trout farm, a rickety bridge and a woman’s farm, the boulder emerges complete with carabineer hooks and climbing pathways. Joshua, a longtime friend of the Manna Program, is a certified mountain guide and in charge of testing the two mountain guide trainees as part of their graduation requirements from the 3 year degree mountain climbing school, the Associacion Ecuatoriana de Guias de Montañas (ASEGUIM). One of these graduation requirements includes a didactic portion- and as such we enlisted 11 library regulars between the ages of 8 and 13 to serve as practice climbers. The two climbing instructors, Stalin and Romel, get their teaching subjects, the students get to learn how to scale a boulder, everybody wins- especially Heather, Kirk and myself as we all get to learn proper climbing technique from some experts and get a break from being at the library.
We started out with some stretches- arm rotations, neck circles and grip exercises- many of the muscles used in rock-climbing are untouched by one’s day-to-day routine, and believe me the next day all of us climbers were made well aware of it. Following this, we learned the basics of carabineer control, the infamous climbing figure eight knots, how to put on a harness, and basic helmet safety. Even myself, as someone who had climbed before, enjoyed the refresher, and the kids were all very attentive. We were then given a basic introduction to the wall, and were allowed to transverse a shorter portion of it to get the muscles ready for higher scaling.
|Maintaining limberness is essential pre-bouldering
Magnesium was given to the kids’ hands, to prevent the slipperiness of perspiration, and the kids lined up on the wall one by one, harnessed and helmeted up- good to go. With us both eager to lend a helping hand, Kirk and I offered to be the belayers- helping keep the kids secure and lending our voices to offer encouragement as the kids scaled the wall.
|Kirk using outstanding belaying technique to keep a secure base
|You can see the two climbing paths above
Every kid got a few chances to scale the two climbing routes, and many of the kids were able to get to the top. A couple of the kids emerged as climbing whizzes, and I think another future paseo would garner even more kids’ attention. After eating our snacks of bananas and chochos with a slosh down of Gatorade, the kids helped take down the wall carabineers and pack up the gear.
|The first rule of climbing - never look down
With some kids initially intimidated by the task of scaling a boulder, not a single kid left without attempting a climb. It’s reassuring to see the group overcome these fears and try their hand at the wall. Revealing the inner climbers and getting them up the wall made for a rewarding experience, as we literally acted as their safety net, keeping them secured as they rose to greater and greater heights. I think the proposition of us keeping the kids secure as they aim for higher ground is a fitting metaphor for our biggest goals in community development. I plan on continuing these roles as the year progresses, whether it is in the classroom or the library- the metaphorical boulders never cease to exist, we just learn how to better confront them.