There’s change coming to campus, and it’s not the new Welcome Center or the alcohol and drug policy proposal. This change is across the pedestrian bridge in the Wellness and Athletic Center (WAC), where freshman Elliot Peterson is updating the rock wall.
Peterson’s passion for climbing began at a young age.
“I have been climbing since I was eight years old, so for 11 years,” Peterson said. “I started because my babysitter and family friend was one of the first employees of the Little Rock Climbing Center, and she took my brother and me. Dave Madsen, who teaches at the wall at Hendrix, was manager at the same time and my first coach.”
Madsen was a professional climber at the time, but today, he works on the Rock Wall at Hendrix—the same wall that Elliot Peterson is currently trying to re-build.
Although it has been a staple of the WAC since the gym was built, the wall’s holds haven’t been re-set for some time.
“It is a good wall, but it is out of date,” Peterson said. “Many of the routes that are up right now have been up for over a year, and so many of the holds are dirty. All the wall needs is a lot of work, and it can be [put] back in shape.”
Madsen appreciates what his former pupil is doing.
“I love that Elliot is coming in and setting routes on the wall,” Madsen said. “It’s always nice to have a fresh perspective and multiple styles of routes set. It also helps with my teaching, because it allows me to show different moves or sequences to my students that I may not get with just me setting them.”
Still, what Peterson has set out to do is no easy task.
“The hardest part was starting,” Peterson said. “It is daunting to stand under a 30-foot wall that needs to be entirely updated, meaning entirely new routes and cleaned holds.”
However, Peterson has already worked out a routine for the reconstruction. Along with two coworkers from the Little Rock Climbing Center, he sets every Thursday and route-sets in the afternoons. So far, they have set three new routes and one boulder problem and have stripped three ropes on the wall. As the semester goes on, the wall will continue to be updated, little by little.
Madsen’s work at the Rock Wall is motivated by his passion for climbing, which began nearly 25 years ago. He hopes that passion will continue for generations at Hendrix, thanks to these updates.
“It’s a great way to introduce climbing to another generation, and it can be a sport that they continue on for their entire lives,” Madsen said.
Peterson shares that passion.
“I love the climbing community, because regardless of where I move later in life, I know that I will have a climbing gym where a community of people who are all passionate about climbing will be waiting,” Peterson said.
Photo Credit Konrad Witkowski