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MTM On The Road: Michigan Rock Climbing Takes Upper Peninsula Sports to New Heights


People travel from across the world to explore the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and its spectacular rock formations, but a new way to explore them that’s on the rise? Rock climbing.

A fifteen-minute forested hike through Negaunee leads us 70 feet up, to the top of the quartz formation, a location we couldn’t have even found with our tour guide for the day, Bill Thompson.

“We are at a quartz formation called the Negaunee Slab which means it is a little less than vertical. It’s doable for people that have never climbed before and want that challenge,” says Thompson.

Needless to say, we want the challenge. Our strategy for the day will be top rope climbing.

Thompson informs us, “It is a very safe way of climbing if you use all the right equipment and safety precautions. We’ll hang the rope, and we’ll walk down to the bottom, and we’ll start climbing.”

Full of excitement, and okay yes, many nerves, we descend 70 feet to the bottom of the Negaunee Slab.

Looking up I say to Photojournalist Stephanie Adkins, “Never would I come out here and do this. If I came out here with my friends I would never attempt this, I would never think I can do it.”

I didn’t come out with friends though, I came with climbing experts, one of which has a few tips before my challenge.

“Anybody can do it,” Thompson reassures me.

“It’s footwork and that is the key to climbing is footwork. What most people do when they’re nervous is they want to hug the rock, right? That is comfort. The problem is that by pushing your feet out this way your feet can slip. You want gravity to push your feet down onto the rock.”

I haven’t even cleared 20 feet above the ground before Thompson’s tips begin to ring true.

“It’s just everything, like leaning away goes against every single one of my instincts,” I tell the group.

Thompson reassures me that although it feels uncomfortable leaning away is exactly why I’m having success.

As I continue my struggle up the slab, just 60 feet to my right, a slightly younger and exceptionally more talented climber prevails, Aubrey Palmer.

Aubrey is 15 years old and one of a group of skilled teens who climb in the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy.

She told us, “Bill Thompson put together the group, and so now it’s like kids from like the Upper Michigan can come climbing, it’s a free program.”

The teens in this free academy are so talented they now travel to compete in rock climbing competitions, it’s a sport that offers a new view of the world.

“Basically rock climbing is like the focus of my life, so many things have happened cause of climbing, I’ve met so many people through climbing,” shares Aubrey.

“It’s amazing and the thing is at first it might be intimidating, but once you start climbing, it’s like you kind of forget about it, you’re just focused on climbing.”

Aubrey’s right.

The climb wasn’t easy, but with Bill Thompson’s help, and the girls cheering me on, I finished the 70 feet climb and scaled far above my own expectations.

If you’re interested in climbing with Michigan Rock Climbing, click .

If you’re interested in the Pictured Rocks Climbing Academy, check out these .