Six years ago Sam Shannon read an article on rock climbing in National Geographic. He has been hooked on the sport ever since.
“It’s something I just started doing and loved,” said Shannon, a construction management major. “Now, I just grab my rope and gear and go.”
Locally, Shannon enjoys climbing in the Poudre Canyon, Eldarado Canyon near Boulder, Horsetooth Reservoir and Estes Park.
Shannon’s climbing adventures haven’t been limited to Colorado. He has spent time climbing in Josuha Tree National Park in California, in Zion National Park in Utah and in Red Rocks Canyon in Nevada. When asked where his favorite place to climb is, his response comes quicker than a breath: Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite, located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is home to El Capitan, a challenging peak that rises 3,500 feet from the valley floor.
Last summer, Shannon spent 13 days climbing El Capitan.
Reaching the peak requires a combination of both free and aid climbing.
Climbers use aid climbing when steepness and sheerness of a rock requires a climber to use rope and gear.
Free climbing is when a climber tries not to use the gear for anything more than a safety net. Free climbing, when possible, is quicker but much more strenuous.
Shannon said being prepared is important.
“You have to bring everything you need for camping,” Shannon said. “You have to bring your water, food, everything. Sometimes you find a natural ledge to sleep on and other times you have to use a portaledge.”
A portaledge is metal frame with hammock-like material stretched across it. The bed is then attached to a secure point in the rock. Everything hangs down from there.
“It’s kind of like vertical backpacking – you just tie everything to you and go,” Shannon said.
Shannon enjoys the spontaneity that rock climbing involves.
“You have to improvise,” Shannon said. “You are never in the same situation twice. You have to adjust, go back and make due with what you’ve got.”
Shannon suggests that beginners go slow and take their time.
“Listen to your head; you’ll know if something isn’t right,” he added.
After spending six years rock climbing, Shannon has had some memorable experiences. Some of the more memorable have included falling and spending his first night on a wall.
“I love the places climbing takes you,” he said. “It takes you to spots where other people don’t get to go. I see things other people don’t get to see.” n