by Max McGlaun
At 30 feet in the air, your heart pounds as you make one final lunge towards the platform above. You miss, your heart skips a beat and you fall … five feet. The rope attached to your harness catches you. Your classmate belaying you on the ground below has saved your life, so you get back on the wall and attempt that final lunge once more.
“We call it rock climbing class but it’s really about belaying, cause that’s your lifeline, the person on the belay,” Professor Robert Carlson says. “We work quite a bit on trust and communications.”
The Butler challenge course was constructed in 2003 and is located behind the Facilities Management building.
“I love doing things hands on. I’ve never really liked school but rock climbing has really made me love school. My favorite part of the day is coming out here with my rock climbing buddies,” freshman Cameo Rector says.
Professor Carlson is currently on his 27th year of teaching at Butler, and has been with Grizzly Adventures since 2003.
“We’ve had kids out here that were wheelchair bound, and we have rigging that we set up that allows them to get to the top of the tower. That’s something somebody in a wheelchair would have never thought they would be able to do, and then sending them down the zipline, that’s a rush,” Carlson says. “It’s exciting to know that we did something that that person never thought they’d be able to do.”
Butler also offers students who are interested in working on campus the opportunity to work for the challenge course. Starting pay is $8/hr. and can move up to $12/hr. or more when students become certified. Classes for certification are offered in the spring.
“Almost all our facilitators that work here, other than me, were former students, and some have been here seven or eight years,” Carlson says.
Outside of Butler, Carlson, who has a level two certification, trains at and inspects courses across the U.S. and sometimes beyond the States.
“This year I went to Iowa, I went to North Dakota for about two weeks, I then went to Arkansas and Oklahoma doing trainings at about five or six different camps,” Carlson says. “They’ve sent me to Canada, I’ve been to Florida for courses, I’ve been to Utah.
Wherever the cellphone doesn’t work it’s normally where they build courses.”
The Butler climbing course was built on a grant. Carlson estimates it would cost approximately $200-250,000 to build out of pocket.
“This is a cool thing to have out here and I wish more of the public knew about it” Carlson says.