Rock climbing’s history and rising popularity inspires Seattle festival

2015 has been an exciting year for climbing, and Seattle Parks and Recreation is set to celebrate it all with the Camp Long Mountain Fest on Sept. 13, 2015. 

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Schurman Rock at Camp Long

Rock climbing is fast becoming the sport of choice for many in search of an athletic activity with both grit and Zen. Climbing, it seems, is scaling into the mainstream. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than 10 million people in the United States participate in rock climbing at some level, and Seattleites in particular have embraced this sport with a passion, with rock climbing gyms and venues, indoor and outdoor­, growing exponentially. To celebrate both this coming-of-age time for the sport of climbing and Seattle’s long-standing mountain and climbing history/community, Seattle Parks and Recreation will open its historic Camp Long for a Mountain Festival on Sept. 13, 2015, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.—where anyone, from the novice to the hard-core enthusiast, can put hands on the rocks and get feet off the ground.

Visitors to the Camp Long Mountain Fest will find an exhilarating mix of climbing, conviviality and challenge. They can test themselves on the high ropes course* and swap stories afterward, or simply enjoy some downtime and spirited conversation with kindred climbers. Vertical World, a local climbing gym, will operate a climbing wall where individuals can scale the same rock that Clark Schurman and Fred Beckey, living legends among Northwest mountaineers, used to practice on*. Mountain Madness, a West Seattle climbing guide and mountaineering company, will run a rappel station down the camp’s “Glacier Wall.” Visitors will also find numerous vendor booths, mountain games and interactive workshops for people of all ages and abilities—and there will be prizes.

With a nod to the past, Camp Long and the Seattle Bouldering Project will also conduct a special outdoor bouldering clinic on Schurman Rock.

*Space for climbing and ropes course is limited, so we encourage early arrival to the festival and sign-up. Waivers are required for all climbing activities and will be available at the lodge.

Schurman Rock was constructed between 1938 and 1939 by the Works Progress Administration, and is believed to be the first man-made climbing structure in America. It was originally named Monitor Rock because climbing instructors could monitor their students from all sides of the structure. In 1957, it was renamed to honor its designer, Clark Schurman, who saw the need for novice climbers to have a practice rock and thus created it. Schurman, known as “The Chief,” was the chief climbing guide on Mount Rainier from 1938 to 1941. He loved mountaineering for all that it has to offer, and his Rock stands to this day as a legacy to his vision.

Last but not least, Erden Eruc, a Turkish adventurer and the first person in history to complete an entirely solo and human-powered circumnavigation of Earth, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the event. Eruc’s list of accolades and awards include the Men’s Journal 2015 list of 50 most adventurous men, the Outside Magazine 2013 Adventurer of the year list, and the Explorers Club 2013 Citation of Merit. Now a Seattleite, Eruc focuses full-time on his nonprofit foundation, Around-n-Over, and its goals of inspiring and informing young people. Festival participants will delight in hearing Eruc share insights and experiences from his life of purpose and adventure.

All events are free and take place at Camp Long (5200 35th Ave. SW). Located in West Seattle, this 68-acre park offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy nature, hike in the forest, camp overnight in rustic cabins, rock climb and learn about natural history. A talented staff of naturalists and ropes course staff lead ongoing group environmental education and rock climbing classes. Programs at Camp Long are designed to be fun, educational and interactive experiences for all ages.

For more information about the Camp Long Mountain Fest, please call 206-423-3460 or visit seattle.gov/parks/environment/rock.htm. Camp Long Mountain Fest is sponsored by Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Associated Recreation Council, O2 Outdoor Opportunities, Vertical World, Seattle Bouldering Project, Second Ascent, Mountain Madness, The Mountaineers, The Access Fund, American Alpine Club and Carabiner Coffee.

* A waiver for these activities will be available at the festival entrance information booth.