As Marisela Horne dangled from a rope about 25 feet above the 3-inch, padded mat that serves as a landing floor at Salt Pump Climbing Co., she looked down and let out an enthusiastic scream.
Horne’s belayer, Barbara Williamson, worked the other end of the rope and systematically lowered her partner to the floor as a pleased climbing instructor monitored the end of Saturday’s Intro to Climbing Class.
“Our goal (at Salt Pump Climbing Co.) is that we want people to understand all the different types of climbing, the risks that are associated with them and how you manage them,” said Salt Pump Climbing Instructor Dylan Fruh. “We want them to be very confident … by the end of the class.”
For most people, Fruh acknowledges, rock climbing and bouldering, a form of climbing that’s performed on shorter rock formations without a rope or harness, isn’t an everyday activity.
Even if the majority of his time is spent deducing the best way to scale the Scarborough-based facility’s latest routes or traveling the country in search of his next climb, “it’s a pretty crazy thing to do,” Fruh said.
One of Fruh’s favorite aspects of sharing his passion with new climbers, such as Saturday’s group of Horne, Williamson and Katie Durkee, is seeing beginners start the two-hour session timid and tepid before they gain confidence by the day’s end.
The intro class, which serves as the gateway to Salt Pump’s diverse list of courses and skill series, is offered on a weekly basis. Intro class sizes are capped at six people to ensure that all participants receive quality instruction and feedback from the company’s certified staff.
Each climber who registers for an Intro to Climbing Class also gets a free, two-week membership to Salt Pump, located at 36 Haigis Parkway in Scarborough. It’s all about giving people the information needed to get outside and climb, said Climbing Instructor Mike Knowles.
One of the most common mistakes Fruh sees in beginner climbers, he said, is they think their arms need to do all of the work. On the contrary, the most effective rock climbing technique consists of using your legs to push yourself up and using your arms for balance. There are also several types of strategies, such as top rope and lead and crack climbing, that one can choose to traverse an obstacle.
While some of the more challenging climbing methods aren’t taught right away, the intro class focuses on the proper use of equipment, several climbing techniques and risk mitigators.
Saturday’s class began with Fruh providing Horne, Williamson and Durkee with a demonstration on the correct way to put their gear on followed by perhaps the most important part – making sure that’s a figure 8 follow through knot tied to the belayer’s ring on their harness.
“We’re teaching them to be as safe as they can,” Fruh said. “It’s an inherently dangerous sport so we don’t like to say they’re really safer, rather they’re managing the risk as best they can.”
Horne, who is active duty in the military, took the lead on each new training exercise much to the relief of her newfound climbing partners. She joked that some aspects of rock climbing felt natural, but she definitely got a little bit of a thrill as she made her way up the approximately 45-foot wall.
“I was very scared – I didn’t know that I had a fear of heights,” Horne said. “But, it’s fun. I’m a little bit addicted.”
Both Williamson and Durkee, who registered for the class together as an alternative to a normal gym, enjoyed learning how to climb with someone who they didn’t know. While parts of the lesson were “nerve-wracking,” said Durkee, the trust-building element among the trio was all three women’s answer for their favorite part of the day. They also got to take a piece of rope home with them to practice that figure 8 follow through knot.
“They did really well – I’m excited to see how they progress,” Fruh said. “Over the next two weeks, I get to see them come in and grow even more. Then, ideally, they become part of our community.”

Anthony Lombardi can be reached at [email protected]

Marisela Horne is lowered down the wall during the Intro to Climbing Class at the Salt Pump Climbing Co. on Saturday. Horne was one of three new climbers who participated in the two-hour session. (Anthony Lombardi photo)

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