Sports: Gallaghers show that climbing is a family activity
Stars and Stripes May 21, 2008
RAF LAKENHEATH — Brothers Brendan and Aidan Gallagher scale the concrete wall with quick and calculated bursts of power as if they come from the same stock as Spider-Man.
Effortlessly navigating the intricate arrangement of foot holds and hand grips like it were second nature, they seem to know every possible way up the indoor rock climbing wall at Lakenheath’s Youth Center.
"It’s just exciting," said Brendan, 11, who recently won the British Mountaineering Council’s Youth Climbing Series. He beat out 21 other young climbers — some two years older than he is — to take home the title. He will go on to compete with the London and Southeast Climbing Team in the national finals in Edinburgh, Scotland, next month.
"I was amazed because I was in the bottom of my age group," said Brendan, who aspires to be the youngest to scale Mount Everest.
Daniel and Betsy Gallagher, a nurse practitioner at Lakenheath’s hospital, introduced Brendan to rock climbing after he began shimmying up door frames, basketball hoops and trees when he was just 3 years old.
"He was climbing anything he could. We decided to try it, and he took to it," Daniel Gallagher said. "He’s got a real knack."
Little brother Aidan is also a natural. He finished fourth overall in his age group at the BMC event.
"When I go further [up] than anyone, I feel I want to burst," he said of the excitement that rushes over him when he makes his way up the vertical pitches.
The Gallaghers said not only is rock climbing safe, but it fosters focus and confidence in their boys. They, too, took up the sport recently.
"We’re doing it as a family now. We’ve slowly gotten the equipment and are learning," Daniel Gallagher said. "When you do it, you realize just how difficult it is. I’m more proud of them after trying it myself."
It’s also become a pastime for the Rogers family.
"This is kind of family fun," said Tech. Sgt. Justice Rogers, with the 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall.
"I started getting into it, and then my daughter got involved and my wife just took her first class," said Rogers, who volunteers with the youth class on Thursday nights before the adult class. "It’s something the whole family can do."
That’s not to say it isn’t a bit scary for some, especially when they first begin, said Senior Airman Ryan Goehring, with the 56th Rescue Squadron at Lakenheath, one of two climbing instructors at the Lakenheath wall.
"But once we show them how safe everything is it usually helps," he said.
Both youth and adult climbers must attend a beginner’s course before taking to the wall. Classes are offered on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the center.
Although England is not known for its rock climbing, there are plenty of indoor facilities in the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire areas with prime outdoor rock climbing destinations just a few hours drive away in Wales, Goehring said.