Northwest Passage Reaches New Heights
Northwest Passage’s Riverside campus in Webster, WI, has a new recreational opportunity thanks to the addition of two 16-foot indoor climbing walls. The walls were designed and built by Ian Karl, Northwest Passage’s Experiential Programming Coordinator. Karl was first introduced to rock climbing in high school by a family friend and then later by his high school counselor who ran a climbing program at the school as part of his social/emotional curriculum. Karl said, “That program played a powerful guiding role in my personal growth and development as a teenager and young adult. I continued to climb recreationally and now climb with my own children, friends, and family.”
Offering comprehensive, year-round experiential programming in a region with long and cold winters can be challenging. Adding indoor climbing to Northwest Passage’s curriculum which already includes Nordic Skiing and snowshoeing was a natural next step. Rock climbing provides countless opportunities for physical skill and strength development as well as opportunities for social and emotional growth. A rock climber has three relationships: the relationship with themselves, the relationship with their belayer (the person who controls the safety rope for a climber), and the relationship with the rock. Confidence in oneself allows a climber to be aware of their abilities and limitations in order to accept the level of challenge that is appropriate for them. Clear, honest, and effective communication between the climber and the belayer establishes an understanding of trust and reliability. “Rock climbing is a functional strength exercise,” said Karl. “It helps you build balance, core strength, and coordination. The physical skills you build rock climbing can help you in daily living as well as in other sports.”
The design and construction of the walls took a little over three months. One of the major considerations was to maximize the relatively low ceiling height of 16’ that was allowed by the gymnasium building at Riverside, which led to the building of two smaller walls instead of one large wall. The two walls’ footprints are mirror images of one another but have unique profiles and overhang features that create distinct and novel challenges. The two walls are at opposite ends of the gym which allows classes to break into smaller groups and provide opportunities for more individualized client focus and better safety and supervision.
Three staff members from Northwest Passage participated in a Climbing Wall Instructor certification class. The class, following the most up-to-date curriculum and best practices from the Climbing Wall Association, was hosted by Nicros of St. Paul, MN, a national leader in indoor climbing wall construction and climbing instruction. Nicros also conducted an inspection and certification of the new walls at the Riverside campus in Webster. The three certified staff members oversee the operation of the wall and conduct internal training for additional staff members.
The walls were funded thanks to a generous donation from the family of a Northwest Passage graduate. During a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on March 10, residents, staff, and Northwest Passage Board Members were able to officially dedicate the Nathan R. White climbing wall and thank the Jerry & Marilyn Arndt family for their donation. Staff members and current residents were on hand to give a climbing demonstration, then Nathan and other members of the Arndt family were able to give the climbing wall a try – and with great success! The donated funds were given to celebrate Nathan’s positive experience at Northwest Passage. Jerry Arndt, Nathan’s grandfather, said, “Northwest Passage and the people here will always have a special place in our hearts for what they did for our grandson. Thank you!”
For more information about Northwest Passage call 715-327-4402 or visit www.nwpltd.org.
About Northwest Passage
Founded in 1978, Northwest Passage is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families. Northwest Passage has become a national leader in residential mental health assessment and treatment for youth experiencing severe and complex emotional and behavioral disruptions. The organization has two residential facilities. Riverside, situated on 70 acres of iconic Northwoods landscape and bisected by the winding Clam River in Webster, WI, serves males and gender-diverse adolescents ages 12-17. The Prairieview campus is located on 25 acres of rolling prairie in Frederic, WI, and houses females and gender-diverse adolescents ages 12-17 as well as Northwest Passage’s Assessment Program which serves ages 6-17 including youth of all genders. Northwest Passage is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), QRTP Certified, and has earned academic accreditation through Cognia, Inc.