The Verde Valley is full of sheer cliffs that rise up above the desert ground. But if you are interested in rock climbing, your best bet might not be outside on the mountains of Sedona, but instead the rock wall at the Cottonwood Recreation Center.
The rock wall towers 20 feet above the floor at the rec center, topped with bells that climbers can ring to celebrate reaching the apex. There are four different possible routes—ranging from a beginner’s route with easily placed hand-holds spaced so that even a novice can make it up without too much trouble, to an overhanging cliff face that will really make you reach to get your hand or foot to that safe spot.
Along with the grips nailed into the side of the wall are two tall fissures going up to the top. For enterprising climbers, the cracks serve as an additional option for hand placement, pushing against the sides with a hand to use as leverage.
“Climbing is like a puzzle,” Faust said. “You’ve got to plan your route a head. It’s you versus the wall, and if you don’t plan ahead the wall can defeat you.”
Climbing at the rec center begins with a crash course on all the safety precautions: Fitting a harness snugly around your waist so that you’re secured while leaving your limbs free, tying it securely to a rope hanging from the top of the wall so that falling means just hanging, and learning the terms that go with the process.
“There’s nothing like climbing that builds that forearm and tendon strength,” Faust said.
There is no rest on the wall, no calm and relaxing position where you can take a short break. Stopping takes nearly as much energy as pulling yourself upwards, as your muscles are working overtime to keep yourself in place without falling.
According to Faust, many of the most avid climbers on the wall are kids and teenagers, and they bring with them the juvenile enthusiasm of youth—as well as the advantage of needing to pull less weight up.
“When parents see their kids ring the bell, that’s a real sense of accomplishment,” Faust said.
The fall hours of the CRC climbing wall are Monday to Friday from 4 to 8, and Saturday from noon to 4pm.