Rock Revolution beckons climbers to WRC


Climbers and spectators gathered at the Wellness and Recreation Center on Saturday, Feb. 24, for the 19th annual Rock Revolution competition.

“I like to view it as a gathering of climbers from the Midwest — mainly Iowa, but from the Midwest — for a good time, a fun competition,” said Andrew Martin, Outdoor Recreation Coordinator.

Martin has been involved with the Rock Revolution every year since its inception.

Seventy climbers vied for the top spots in three categories divided by skill level. Combining top-rope climbing and bouldering, the competition was in a redpoint format, with climbers given a choice of different routes that each contained different point values.

In honor of this year’s theme, “Pirates of the Carabiner,” several competitors wore bandanas — a couple of eye patches could even be spotted. The climbing community voted for the pirate theme last semester, beating two other options: “Renaissance” and “Rock.”

Nichole Crockford, who is earning her graduate degree in leisure, youth and human services, was the grad assistant coordinating the event. Crockford highlighted the work students had put into competition-planning.

“Pretty much everyone that runs this is students. [. . .] For about a week and couple of days we are just constantly thinking about route-setting — putting the holds up for the climbers — as well as school, as well as our jobs on top of it,” Crockford said. “Thursday and Friday is when we come into the place and stay up really late. [. . .] And it’s all volunteer, which is amazing.”

“They’re not getting paid to do it; they’re doing it because they have a passion for doing it,” Martin said. “And the money we generate from the competition then goes back into the climbing community to purchase climbing holds.”

This year’s Rock Revolution was the first to feature monochromatic holds, Martin explained. Each route had color-coded climbing holds, whereas previous years had required extensive tape to distinguish a route.

The announcement of the new holds drew a cheer from competitors before the event commenced.

“This is the first year we’ve had enough holds to make it happen, so we’re excited,” Martin said.

All participants, regardless of their final place in the competition, received a T-shirt and a raffle ticket to be entered in a drawing for prizes provided by sponsors. Finalists received medals fashioned from climbing rope.

Students from schools across Iowa traveled to UNI to join the Rock Revolution.

“We held a climbing competition at [the University of] Iowa a couple of weeks ago. Everyone from UNI who came were like, come to our competition!” said Natalie Rapp, a sophomore environmental science major from the University of Iowa. “So we got a group together and were like, yeah, let’s go try out different walls. I’ve never climbed at a different university before.”

“[Climbing] pushes you to your limits,” said Andrea Reutzel, a junior biochemistry major who first started climbing this year. “When you have a route that you can’t get and you struggle on, and you clear your head and come back another time, and then you get it — it’s just a really good feeling knowing that you accomplished something.”

“It’s a great community, too,” Crockford said. “We have a great climbing community. If you want to meet more people, it’s a great way to do it. Because you can’t really top rope without talking to someone else, due to safety. You always have to have a belayer.”

The Rock Revolution is hosted by the UNI Outdoors program. Aside from the climbing wall, UNI Outdoors has an equipment rental program, an instructional clinic program and sponsors adventure trips of various lengths to a range of locations.

“People stay indoors too much, so they should experience the outdoors. It gets them outside their comfort zone many times, outside their box,” said Martin. “So they go out there, they learn new skills, they see really cool places, and I think for the students here at UNI, they meet new friends.”