Nashville Film Festival

Murfreesboro Reaches New Heights with The Ascent

photos by Jonathan Wesenberg

Climbing and fitness enthusiasts, challenge seekers and people of a social nature unite; The Ascent has arrived! Inside a large green warehouse located at 831 Park Ave., tucked back near the intersection of S. Church St. and Middle Tennessee Blvd., owner Jeff Hess and his highly motivated and passionate team have designed and built a 32-feet-tall wall and a 2,500 sq. ft. boulder for hours of climbing excitement.

For those new to climbing, bouldering is a style attempted without the use of a rope and is confined to short climbs over crash pads to prevent serious injury upon falling. The 12-foot-tall boulder includes holds of different sizes and shapes that are bolted to the wood siding. These holds are what the climber grips as well as stands on to ascend. The team has designed 80 different routes on the boulder, which are called problems due to the problem-solving nature of the climb. Problems are color-coded with tape stuck next to the holds that are included on each route. There are four levels of difficulty on the boulder including recreational (for beginners), intermediate, advanced and open (which are the most difficult problems).

“There’s a real social subculture with bouldering,” said Hess. “It’s faster [than high-wall climbing], more intense and mostly overhangs.” The overhangs to which Hess is referring are sections of the boulder that protrude outward, intensifying the challenge. If the climber is able to reach the top, the final effort is to pull him/herself onto the top of the boulder. Once the climber is standing on top of the boulder, s/he may use a set of stairs to get back to the ground. The Ascent requires that a person be at least 12 years of age for bouldering, since no ropes are used.

Additional fun to the boulder is the high-wall, patterned with several holds offering assorted levels of difficulty, and multiple ropes for belaying. The technique of belaying is a second person controlling the rope from the ground so the climber doesn’t fall far. The rope is connected to the climber by a harness and fed upward and around a friction device mounted at the top of the wall. From that point, the rope runs back toward the ground and is fed through a carabiner connected to a harness on the person belaying.

The carabiner is a metal loop that creates friction and allows the belayer to better control the rope. The facility does not provide staff belayers, but instead trains and certifies everyone who is over the age of 13 to belay. This way, everyone belays each other and more time can be spent on the wall rather than waiting for a staff belayer to be available. In addition to anchoring, the belayer serves as a communicator to the climber in helping s/he to ascend the wall. The minimum recommended age for climbing the high-wall is five years. In some cases, a child younger than that can fit into the children’s full-body harnesses and the facility’s adult harnesses fit up to a 40″ waist.

The Ascent provides a free belay certification class daily every hour from 4–8 p.m. The facility also offers yoga training classes including Hatha yoga and Kinetics For Climbing, which applies yoga practice to rock-climbing techniques.

“The objective [with Kinetics For Climbing] is to practice yoga themes first; balance and awareness, breath and reach, core strength and courage, and then practice these themes on the wall,” said instructor and marketing director Hailey Traver. “This class has been a great way for our climbers to build strength, confidence, and trust in their skills and a camaraderie with each other.”

Hess and his team are currently building an additional high-wall for more belayed climbing as well as lead climbing, where the climber clips the rope to the wall as s/he climbs, which is more difficult. As lead climbing becomes available, climbers must first qualify and then will be required to take a training course.

A one-day pass at The Ascent costs $20, including rental gear. The price is $12 if one provides his/her own harness and climbing shoes. A day pass means one may climb all day from open to close and can leave and return in the same day at no additional charge. Discounted group rates and membership packages are also available. Rates and other information can be found at the official website www.climbyourrock.com and The Ascent can be followed on Twitter and liked on Facebook.

The Ascent shares the building with Crossfit Murfreesboro and has worked out a deal to include cardio and weight training availability with an Ascent membership. The Ascent also features a large comfortable lounge for guests to hang out, including a big-screen TV displaying climbing videos, a gourmet coffee shop and a pro shop for climbing accessories, snacks and beverages.

For those who may be intimidated by the sport of climbing, know that nationally only about 10 percent of gym climbers have ever climbed in nature, according to Hess. And much more than sheer physical strength, climbing is about balance and control, which can be learned through training and practice. The Ascent is a member of the Climbing Wall Association, which requires rigorous standards for design, safety and training.

“Safety and having fun are our top priorities here,” said Hess. “We’re providing a community for people to be social and challenge themselves. Some people climb, some may not, but the idea is that everybody has fun.”

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