Outdoor Program

Beyond the Ordinary: Adventure Recreation in the Third Age

December 08, 2016

Michelle LeBlanc
Simon Fraser University

Editors note: This is the first in a series of articles on the ageing population and the opportunities they represent to recreation programmers.

Gone are the days of passive cruise vacations, bridge, and bingo for adults entering retirement! Significant progress in the medical and technological fields has contributed to longer lives averaging near and beyond 80 years in North America. Along with these advances, the rapid aging of the largest demographic wedge (Baby Boomers) evokes a new era for the world of recreation programming.

Social scientists and health researchers suggest that this aging group will tend to live longer, healthier lives than previous generations. In addition to better health, there are also differences in values and beliefs, effectively shaping the way in which they prefer to spend their years in post-retirement. It has also been suggested that this age group thrives on stimulating experiences, for example, cultural exposure and adventure travel. This in turn creates a potential for recreation facilities to offer exciting, stimulating and meaningful programs versus traditional elementary activities. Read more

Auto Belays

September 18, 2012

Love them or Leave them

Heather Reynolds
Climbing and Outdoor Rec Program Coordinator
Dalhousie University

Before heading to the Climbing Wall Summit in Boulder Colorado this Spring, I received a call from Candie Fisher of Eldorado Wall Company, the company which installed the climbing wall I manage at Dalhousie University. Candie was interested in talking to me about Auto Belays, in particular, the TruBlue Auto Belay system Eldorado is now promoting.

In the event you haven’t heard about auto belays, the concept behind these devices is that the climber clips into a rope or a cable with a locking carabiner and as s/he climbs up the wall, the cable or rope is being ‘taken in,’ or retracted, by the device anchored at the top of the wall. If the climber falls, the device has a braking system that stalls or slows the rope as it lowers the climber to the ground. It doesn’t hold the climber in one spot, rather it generates the ‘right’ amount of friction on the rope to lower the climber at a safe speed toward the ground. Once on the ground, the climber can unclip and secure the cable or rope to an anchor for another person to use, or s/he can climb again. Essentially, the climber does not need a belayer – a person to hold the rope for him/her as they climb.

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So… you want to build a Climbing Wall

May 10, 2012

Heather Reynolds
Climbing and Outdoor Rec Program Coordinator
Dalhousie University

My enthusiasm for climbing was sparked when I was still a University student and I took a Sunday afternoon to go to a cliff with a coworker. After a brief introduction, away I went. As I tried to make my way up this sharp granite face, I can still recall the intense focus and physical challenge of the route. I also remember being so absorbed in the task that I did not notice being afraid. It was intense and incredibly empowering. With a handful of outdoor climbing opportunities, I was convinced that climbing was an amazing experience that everyone should have. Within a year, I was working diligently with Climb Nova Scotia (a not-for-profit organization), a few working professionals and the Dalhousie Department of Athletics and Recreation to get approval to install a climbing wall in the recreation facilities on campus. Through the process of this endeavor, however, many lessons were learned. And still more lessons became more apparent when I eventually returned to manage this wall, and a newer one in the same building. With the responsibility of administering a wall, I gained a new insight into the key elements in operating a safe and successful facility.

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Education is the Best Offence!

March 22, 2012

Heather Reynolds
Climbing and Outdoor Rec Program Coordinator
Dalhousie University

It was an overcast early spring day in 1992. My partner and I were on a weekend road trip to White Horse slab and Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire. We’d just completed two full days of climbing and would be soon loading up the car for the twelve hour drive back home. Despite being ardent sport climbers, focusing on routes no higher than fifty feet, we decided to do an easy long multi-pitch route. This means the route would be multiple rope lengths — in the hundreds of feet. I had some experience with this traditional style of climbing, but my partner had none. Off we went. When we had gone about 3 pitches, it started to rain. When it gets wet, a rock face becomes like a skating rink, particularly in climbing shoes. Eventually we decided going up was no longer a safe option, and rappelling down was the only way to go. Our problem was we only had one rope and each anchor point was almost a full rope length away. We could do it with one rope, but it would mean leaving some gear behind. In the end, that didn’t happen since we were not the only climbers in this predicament. We joined up with another group of climbers and used our ropes together to get all five of us off the wall – wet, but safe and sound.

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Climbing Wall Risk Management: Part 1

July 15, 2011

Jason Kurten, M.S.
Outdoor Adventure Coordinator
Director of Indoor Climbing Facility
Texas A&M University, College Station

Josh Norris, M.A.
Climbing and Adventure Education Coordinator
Adventure Leadership Institute
Oregon State University

Climbing Walls. Many, if not most of today’s colleges and university recreation centers feature one of these installations in some form. Whether it is a small bouldering wall tucked away in a corner or a free standing tower rising through the center of your building, these facility features pose an unique issue for managers. Through the 1980’s, the climbing wall industry historically lacked consolidation and standardization. Facilities were built in areas where outdoor climbing was popular and they provided a place where these outdoor adventurers could practice their craft in a controlled environment. Today we see these installations in YMCA’s and university recreation centers, and run as commercial operations – even in areas devoid of any outdoor rock climbing opportunities. This article is the first in a two part series. Part I will focus on physical facilities by covering three topics: Published Guidelines, Documentation, and finally Facility Risks and Inspections. Part II will focus on Employee Training, Climber Instruction and Competency. Read more

Climbing Wall Risk Management: Part 2

July 14, 2011

Employee Training, Participant Instruction and Competency

Jason Kurten, M.S.
Outdoor Adventure Coordinator
Director of Indoor Climbing Facility
Texas A&M University, College Station

Josh Norris, M.A.
Climbing and Adventure Education Coordinator
Adventure Leadership Institute
Oregon State University

This article is the second of a two part series devoted to risk management for artificial climbing walls. The first part of the article dealt with the physical facility. This article will focus on the human element involved in the sport. As many of us know from our larger recreation facilities, the human element can often be the most difficult to manage and sometimes the hardest to predict. However, once the physical facility is secured, the single most important way to mitigate risk in climbing walls is to develop a process to address human errors and issues, both in our employees and our patrons. In developing this process, the areas to focus on include: the concept of Demonstrated Competence and its application to both the skill instruction and testing of our patrons and the training and testing of our employees. Read more

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