Parents, do you ever feel like your kids are climbing the walls, especially in the cold winter months? It’s common to spend more time cooped up inside once the snow starts to fly, though of course there are plenty of fun ways to get outside, such as skiing, snowshoeing, or building a snowman. A new way you could consider getting the kiddos out and moving is trying the sport of ice climbing—yep, an organized way to “climb the walls”!
The Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy, or PRCA for short, is a Michigan non-profit that provides low-cost rock and ice climbing opportunities to Upper Peninsula youth ages 7-18. They are based in Marquette and rock climb in the Marquette area in summer, and ice climb around Munising in the winter. The PRCA was established in 2016 when world-renowned alpinist Conrad Anker noticed no local kids were ice climbing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. At that year’s annual Michigan Ice Festival, money was fundraised to start the PRCA.
Since then, the PRCA has gone full steam ahead with all things climbing! The PRCA prides itself on providing not only climbing opportunities to those who might not otherwise have them, but also fostering community and stewardship for its members. From guided outdoor rock and ice climbing, volunteer opportunities at local events, weekly indoor group climbs during the school year, yoga, attending climbing festivals in the Midwest, and more, the PRCA provides unique experiences to UP youth. No gear or experience is required to climb with the PRCA, and membership costs are low, with scholarships available to those who need one.
For many, climbing is much more than just a sport—it’s a lifelong pursuit that connects them with wild places, a strong community, and opportunities to constantly learn. Climbing pushes you to trust yourself and those around you, constantly learn and adapt, and widen your comfort zone. Climbing also promotes positive mental and physical health, such as improved strength and balance, and higher feelings of self-sufficiency. The PRCA is run by volunteers with years of climbing experience who teach these values and experiences to UP youth.
With climbing’s rising popularity, thanks to more gyms opening across the country and the sport being featured for the first time in the Olympics, it’s important to understand the mentorship aspect the sport has compared to other outdoor pursuits. Climbing is inherently dangerous, and historically was taught almost strictly through mentorship. These days people can get started climbing in the gym, through online videos, etc. While it’s great to have these more widely accessible resources available, without mentorship it’s possible to have gaps in knowledge and safety. The PRCA helps serve as a bridge for this mentorship gap.
Safety is the number one concern of the PRCA. All guided rock and ice outings are facilitated by Michigan Ice Fest Guides. These guides have taken and passed one or more guiding courses and assessments run by the internationally recognized and accredited American Mountain Guides Association. The PRCA teaches youth many things—climbing movement, gear use, anchor systems, belaying, and more—all adjusted to the age and experience level of the climbers participating.
So, parents, if your kids are interested in a new way to recreate outside, face fears of heights, be more active in community stewardship, or just want to try something new, check out the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy.
To get involved with the PRCA, reach out through their website’s “Contact Us” page. If you’re over eighteen and would like to volunteer, don’t hesitate to reach out as well!
Laura Slavsky (she/her) grew up in Marquette, MI and began climbing in 2014. She has guided ice climbing clinics at Michigan Ice Fest, is a Community Ambassador for the national climbing non-profit Access Fund, and has volunteered with the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy since 2019.
Excerpted from the Winter 2021-22 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.