February 24, 2010

School's out; kids are climbing the walls -- and it's fun

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It's hump day on school vacation week. Staycationing school kids are desperate for action, but the snow shortage has made outdoor recreation a challenge.
     As a result, they are climbing the walls – and it's a blast.
     “I've been rock climbing about two years and I love it,” said Halle Hamilton, 9, who yesterday owned the rock climbing wall at Sports Zone. “I especially love making it to the top,” which she did most every time, as neatly formed rows of her peers watched her while waiting for a turn.
     She rings the bell at the top of the wall before descending in exaggerated leaps, catching big air all the way down to the ground as she bounces her feet off the face of the manufactured mountain.
     Next was Isabella Brouillet, 9, whose sweaty palms were impeding her progress.
     “Put your foot on the red one,” coached Halle from the floor.
    “I can't; it's gonna be too hard. My hands are slipping,” hollered Isabella from her vertical perch about 15 feet up.
     “You can do it,” Halle insisted, and Isabella did get a little further before her sweaty hands made it impossible to hold on and she bounded back to earth, disappointed but undaunted.
     Meanwhile, Autumn Thompson, 9, of Litchfield, was harnessed and ready for her first climb of the day – rock wall climbing is what kids attending the Winter Sports Camp do between other activities, just to have even more fun than they were already having playing soccer or shooting hoops.
     Most of the kids manage to get about halfway up before losing their footing or missing a ledge.
     Christopher “Everyone calls me Chipmunk” Coventry, 7, of Derry, was no exception. He made it about 10 feet up when he lost his nerve. He huddled into a crevice.
     “Don't give up, Chipmunk,” said Kyle Helman, 12, of Londonderry. “Keep going.”
     Chipmunk looked up. Then he looked down. Then he looked for a little help from Tim Burke, who was on duty helping kids get harnessed and hooked
     “I'm nervous,” said Chipmunk quietly from up on high.
Tim Burke is there to catch "Chipmunk" Coventry on the way down.
     “Nervous? Don't be nervous. I gotcha,” said Burke, who quickly grabbed on and scaled the wall, reaching around Chipmunk on both sides to show him where to place his hands. “Try it like  this,” Burke said.
     Chipmunk gave it his best shot, but was ready for a break. He slowly floated toward solid ground like a butterfly on a leash, into the waiting arms of Burke.
     “You'll get it next time, bro. You've got all week to figure it out. If you don't make it today, don't worry,” Burke said.
     Chipmunk was reassured, and took his place at the end of the line, ready for his next climb.
     “It's fun. It makes me feel like I'm in the Olympics,” said Chipmunk, joining the applause for Halle as she reached the rock wall pinnacle once again, giving the victory bell one extra tug, just because she could.

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