PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon is known as a place where people love to get outside but not everyone has equal access to nature and recreational activities.
One local college student is trying to change that by encouraging others to try rock climbing. Historically, climbing can be a challenge, not just because it’s physically and mentally demanding but because memberships and gear are expensive and women often think they’re not strong enough.
But not Emma Jorgensen, who is an expert climber despite dealing with scoliosis and a recent surgery to fix a herniated disk.
“Climbing has really taught me that I can really do anything I put my mind to and that’s indicative of other people as well,” she said.
The 20-year-old senior social work major manages the rock wall at George Fox University‘s new student recreation center.
“As a program, as a woman in climbing, I want to see other people get into it and understand how beautiful it can be and benefit from it just as much as I have,” Jorgensen said.
The sport has spiked in popularity in the last 10 years and encourages community, trust and safety — good reasons to try it for the first time.
“It’s less about the actual climbing and more about what happens when you get together with a group of people and say let’s achieve something together — Let’s do this,” she said.
Beginners want to beware of bad foot placement, keep their arms straight and find an easy route.
“Climbing is really great in that any body type can do climbing,” Jorgensen said. “It helps if you’re muscular, it helps if you’re athletic but it’s not necessarily something you need and it’s something you can work on as you’re going.”
The George Fox climbing wall is only available to students but it’s free and is open more than 100 hours a week. Portland also has many indoor rock climbing gyms including The Circuit, Portland Rock Gym and Planet Granite.
Climbing will be an event in the summer Olympics for the first time in 2020.
“I think it’s going to be really cool to see how many people get into it and how many people realize how wonderful it is to be out in nature and being on a wall, in a community,” Jorgensen said. “I’ve said community a lot, culture a lot, but that really is the cornerstone of climbing is it doesn’t matter what grade you’re climbing or how well you’re doing, it matters that you’re here and engaging.”