BOONE LIFE: The climb up

Boulder buffs and beginners come together to climb rock
Sunday, March 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:48 p.m. CST, Monday, February 9, 2009
To prevent slipping, Nelson Muller uses climbing shoes at size 10.5 — two sizes smaller than his normal shoe size.

At 6 p.m., Marcus Floyd munches on his sub sandwich as he saunters out of his office inside Wood Link Fence Company to the place next door. Floyd sets his half-devoured sandwich down on a table cluttered with ice axes, carabiners, cams and other climbing devices. He punches the chalk covered buttons of a CD player and sits back down to occupy his hands by doodling in the grooves in the blades of his ice axes with a Sharpie.

He builds fences for work.

He built a climbing gym for play.

Since 1992, The Bouldering Garden has given climbing experts and novices with a place to boulder.

“(I built it) just to provide myself with a place to do what I love to do,” he says.

Nelson Muller jams his feet into a pair of climbing shoes. At size 10.5, they are two sizes too small. But that’s the way they are supposed to fit, Floyd says, a tight fit leaves less room for slipping off small footholds. For longer climbs, more comfortable shoes would work. But this is bouldering, the dead sprint of rock climbing. Most of the routes on the 10-foot-high wall require more bursts of short-term strength than long-term stamina.

17-year-old Rebecca O’Brien’s light frame glides seamlessly, like an insect, along the makeshift holds of the rock wall. Her hands clamp onto slivers of fake rock as the weight of her body shifts from leg to leg.

“I really like everything (about rock climbing),” O’Brien says. “Moving on the rock; the people that are attracted to it.”

Her small voice and cheery smile don’t give away the fact that she can do numerous pull-ups, gripping only with her fingertips. O’Brien climbs twice a week and competes occasionally. Floyd, who has traveled to climbing competitions with O’Brien, says she takes first almost every time. He says she’s one of the best climbers in the country for her age group.

“It’s not about the competition so much,” she says. “It’s about having fun with people who love to climb.”

Tucked along a wall of the gym is “The Hut,” Floyd’s name for a small storage room inside the gym. Floyd’s topographical map collection doubles as wallpaper. Climbing posters feature bodies twisted along granite rock faces and iced over waterfalls. A dusty archive of years of climbing magazines hides behind Floyd’s parachute and skydiving helmet, and a U.S. map hangs, peppered with scores of thumbtacks and push pins marking only a small portion of the many places he’s climbed.

Floyd says you don’t have to train for hours or be in top physical condition to start climbing.

“It’s a mindset. If you want to start climbing, the best way to prepare for climbing is just to do it,” he said. “It’s one step at a time, it’s one hold at a time.”

Rebecca O’Brien climbs along the ceiling of the Bouldering Garden on St. Charles Road outside Columbia on Feb. 28. Floyd “spots” her, ready to catch her if she slips.

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Grant Venable August 14, 2007 | 7:57 p.m.

Great story. Are there more photos?

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