Rock Climbing Embodies the Spirit of Eagle Rock Commitment No. 2

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If you’ve spent any time at all on our campus, you’re probably somewhat familiar with our values and in particular, our 8+5=10, values.

Broken down, these values include eight themes that ensure we stay true to Eagle Rock School’s essence and mission. The five expectations create the framework that makes up our classes. And the 10 commitments are the values our students strive to internalize and live by.

From among all of these fundamentals, my favorite is Commitment Two, which asks us to develop our minds through intellectual discipline, our bodies through physical fitness, and our spirits through thoughtful contemplation.

To me, rock climbing is the total embodiment of that commitment. Because climbing a vertical wall of outcroppings requires mind, body and spirit to reach the top — and that holds true for even the most worn gym climb.


One of my duties as Eagle Rock School’s Public Allies Fellow in Outdoor Education is taking several of our students to the indoor climbing gym at the nearby Estes Park Mountain Shop. Our most dedicated climbers are students Myles Grant, Ellis Bonin and Forrest Henninger, but many students on campus like to harness up from time to time.

The Mountain Shop’s indoor climbing gym provides a safe training ground for students who are brand new to the sport and who want to experience the challenge of an indoor wall climb. The store is also a haven for dedicated climbers who simply want to stay in shape and work on their rock climbing skills through the snowy winter months.

Forrest says he enjoys rock climbing more than traditional sports because he is competing against himself. He likes the concept of working through problems on his own— and then reacting to them. To him, that’s preferable to sports that require participants to rely on quick reflexes and a competitive spirit, which he admits he doesn’t fully embrace.

I agree that climbing is a unique sport. I also see rock climbing as an excellent experiential education opportunity — meaning the activity makes space for collaboration and requires effective communication.

Each route on a rock climb is a physical and mental puzzle. One must be able to reason through the best ways to hold one’s body and then conduct advance thinking about the next step and upcoming moves and where they will want to be at that point.

Climbing requires a deep connection to one’s body as well. A climber has to know which muscles to engage and what are their limitations. A move that is seemingly impossible at one moment can become easy if the climber turns a hip into the wall or engages their core.

And, of course, spirit — a belief in oneself and control over fear — is vitally important in starting and finishing a climb. If the climber doesn’t think they are capable, they won’t be capable. It becomes an entirely different experience when climbing with a centered mind than one that permits the fear of falling or of pain to rent space in your head.

To me, Commitment Two’s components of the self can be better understood, nourished, and practiced through the sport of rock climbing.

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About the Author: Leila Ayad is Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center’s 2017/2018 Public Allies Fellow in Outdoor Education. Known as an interdisciplinary thinker who seeks to build bridges between disparate bodies of knowledge, Ayad is a 2017 graduate of Florida State University where she majored in Environmental Policy & Science and minored in Biology.

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