Jul 132010
Authors: Hannah Tran, Special to the Collegian

Lumpy Ridge, a three-mile long series of rocky cliffs and domes, overlooks the fertile grasslands and prominent mountains of Estes Park. They are pleasant and beautiful rocks, but CSU sophomore Brad Thoms sees them as more.

During the last four years, Thoms has conquered and climbed these beautiful and enormous rocks. He sees them as challengers and competitors –– every slope, crack and buttress a tester of his ability, endurance and strength.

An Estes Park native, Thoms brought his love for climbing to Fort Collins and now works as a climbing wall attendant at the Student Recreation Center.

“Climbing has different aspects of it,” Thoms said. “Climbing incorporates the strength, endurance and skill of other sports, but it also has a fear factor and trust factor that you do not find in other sports.”

Thoms has had his share of fear about three summers ago when he and three of his friends climbed the infamous Lumpy Ridge. One climber knocked a rock loose, which tumbled down and injured his partner.

On the other side of fear exists partnership.

In this partnership, one is the climber and the other is the belayer. The belayer is responsible for keeping tension on the rope connected to the climber. If the climber were to fall, the tension applied by the belayer will slow and catch the fall.

Essentially, a climber’s life is in the hands of their belayer, said junior Will Sherwood, also a climber. “It can get very dangerous if the climber and the belayer are not in tune. Communication is key.”

Thoms began climbing his freshman year of high school.

He credits his community –– made up of devoted climbers of the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park –– with his initial enjoyment of the sport.

While at CSU this year, Thoms climbed at the Miramont Lifestyle Fitness Gym off Mulberry Street, Horsetooth Reservoir and The Palace, just up the Poudre Canyon.

And during the school year, Thoms spent nearly every day at the Student Recreation Center’s newly built climbing wall, assisting and teaching others to climb. Adorned in his red collared work shirt and a belt of chains around his waist, Thoms couldn’t help but smile as he held several ropes.

“I love this. It is fun to be around people who do the same thing as me,” Thoms said. “I learned that I like to teach people how to climb.”

Thoms entered the climbing world through a close group of friends back at home, and he has continued forming and building bonds with other climbers within CSU and Fort Collins.

“I got a lot of my friends to do what I like to do,” Thoms said. “We are a very close knit community. Everyone understands what climbing is; everyone is on the same page.”

Junior business administration major Adam Sanders, a friend of Thoms, agreed that all climbers share an exclusive mindset.

“If you are a climber, you basically dedicate your life to something that seems as though it doesn’t matter at all,” Sanders said. “It’s hard to have close friends that don’t climb.”

For Thoms, climbing is something much different than other sports.

“Everyone is willing to support you. Everyone helps everyone else; it is expected,” Thoms said. “As a climber, you understand the dangerous part, the knowledge and the skills. It’s a brotherhood.”

Collegian contributor Hannah Tran can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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