Volume 92, Issue 5

Friday, June 12, 1998

hakuna matata


Get your rocks off on rockclimbing

Gazette file photo
ASCENDING THE MOUNT. Cort McElroy, owner of climbing company "Climb it Anyway" displays his expert climbing techniques.

By Karen Cuss
Gazette Writer

When thinking about what to do during the summer, clinging to a cliff while hanging from a small rope is not high on many people's priority lists–but for many people it's a passion.

Rockclimbing can be an exciting sport whether climbing Mount Everest or executing a small local climb. Rockclimbers will ascertain that the rush it provides is addictive and more and more adventure seekers are getting sucked into the sport.

"The popularity of the sport is increasing," says Brad Christian, owner of the Adventure Connection Climbing Gym. "It's been really big in Europe for 25 or 30 years but it's just growing in popularity here."

Christian warns beginners should learn from an expert because the sport can be very dangerous if not done properly. He says that an instructor should have certain qualifications laid down by the Canadian Rockclimbers Association.

"You could die," Christian replies when asked what can go wrong on a climb. "We see poor belayer techniques, poor anchors, poor safety in general – but rockclimbing is an extremely safe sport if it's done correctly," he adds.

Many climbers take advantage of indoor climbing gyms, such as the Adventure Connection here in London.

"Most climbers get into it for their own goals," Christian says. "Some of the best climbs in the world aren't hard climbs, but they take you to great places – that's what it's all about."

When Cort McElroy scaled a wall at the Toronto Exhibition in 1989, he knew he had found his future. He says he became the unrelenting climbing machine he is today, grabbing any opportunity to practice. He was utterly engrossed in learning all there was to know about the sport and his first summer was spent at Kelso Conservation Area near Milton, where he mastered the rock face quickly.

At twenty-two he has established his own company called Climb It Anyway, bringing to it a base of knowledge coming from working all around the globe. Nepal, Banff, Squamish, Victoria and Whistler are just some of the places with challenging climbs that McElroy has conquered.

McElroy is out of the country guiding personal and group tours at least four months of the year. His first trip to Mount Everest came when he accompanied IMAX and their cameras to Khumbu Icefall which is about 7,000 metres above sea level. On that trip a storm, which killed 12 people, ravaged his base camp. For some, the love of climbing would have ended. For McElroy, however, it was not time to give up.

Even fear, however, does not evade him. "I still get scared. It's a good thing because if you don't get scared, you get hurt." Come winter McElroy will be back in climbing gyms all across Ontario setting routes for other aspiring climbers and giving seminars at places such as Science North and Laurentian University.

This summer has kept McElroy a little closer to home. Hired on a daily basis by clients across the country, he has already conquered rock faces in Kentucky and New Hampshire. While the weather is just starting to get warm, McElroy says his business has never been hotter. He continues to teach and offer others the benefits of rockclimbing.

"Anyone can do it," McElroy scoffs. "I've seen boys at eight to men of 60 [climbing], anyone can learn."

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