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Idaho State University Climbing Wall

About the WallSome Folks that Deserve ThanksHistory of the Wall

About the Wall

The Idaho State University Climbing Wall is located in Reed Gym, on the corner of Memorial Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Way on the ISU Campus. The wall was designed by Scott Vail of Nampa. It has 5,500 square feet of climbable space making it the most expansive wall in the regional area and one of the largest at any university. A fee is charged for non-student use of the facility. For the latest information on operating hours and cost, call Campus Recreation at (208) 282-4854.

Some Facts About the Wall . . .

125 feet wide
35 feet high
25-foot horizontal roof overhang
5,500 square feet of climbing surface
20,000 feet (4 miles) of metal tubing make up the interior frame
3,000 holds from 9 different manufactures
19 top rope stations
17 lead climbing routes
4 rappel stations

Some Folks that Deserve Thanks

First and foremost, we'd like to thank Scott Tyson (former Outdoor Program climbing instructor) for his vision and laying the groundwork for the wall.

To Sam Netuschil (former ISU Student Senator and avid climber) for his political acumen and his diplomatic work in gaining the support of the ASISU Senate.

To Darrell Buffaloe (Director of ISU Physical Plant) who when things seemed bleakest, was willing to take a risk and offered the help of his fine staff, and, in the end, made it all possible.

To Scott Vail (wall designer) whose knowledge of climbing, and whose imagination and artistry resulted in a wall which will be enjoyed for years to come.

To Jan Anderson and Ernie Naftzger (Dean and Associate Dean of the Student Affairs Department) who never wavered in their enthusiasm and behind-the-scenes support of the wall.

To Peter Joyce (Outdoor Program climbing instructor) who watched over the wall from the design stage through its construction, kept the carpenters plied with rolls and coffee, check and rechecked safety measures and when everything was finally ready, turned it all over to Campus Recreation.

To all these folks and the many others who contributed to success of the wall, our warm and sincere appreciation.

History of the Wall

In any governmental institution, the path followed by worthwhile project ideas is treacherous and circuitous. Indeed, if the final result remotely resembles the original or if it even makes it to fruition at all is fortuitous. In part, that was the case of the climbing wall at Idaho State, but with one major difference. The final result, the graceful utilitarian structure eventually built, far exceeded the dreams of any of us involved.
It all began in the mid 1980s when Idaho State University students involved in the Outdoor Program first began talking about having some type of indoor climbing facility. What sparked it was the weather. During the spring semester, Pocatello's weather is notoriously bad. On cold, rainy spring days, the climbing class was forced to find shelter someplace. Often they found it under the Gould Street Overpass. There, they could get out of the weather and still do a little climbing on one of the concrete walls.

Climbing under a highway bridge isn't the most ideal of situations, so Scott Tyson, the Outdoor Program's climbing instructor, began to actively look at various indoor sites around the university where a small wall might be placed. Bill Vaughn, the Campus Architect, was an early supporter of Scott's efforts and assisted whenever possible. In 1989, Tyson wrote and received a $500 grant from Recreational Equipment (REI) for the planning and development of a climbing wall at the university. Shortly after receiving the grant, formal climbing wall site evaluations were conducted at six potential locations on campus. For one reason or another, most of the locations reviewed were deemed not suitable for a wall, but one small room, the squash court at Reed Gym offered some promise as a limited indoor climbing area.

Tyson sent proposals to several lumber companies in 1990 to try to obtain building materials to construct a wall in the squash court. While supportive of the climbing wall, the companies were unable to provide any support at that time. Since adequate financial resources were lacking, the climbing wall was put on the back burner. Meanwhile, student interest in the wall continued to grow.

Dr. James Girvan, who at the time was the Chairman of the Department of Physical Education and Dance conducted a campus survey in 1990. Entitled "Department of Physical Education and Health Education, Campus Recreation and Intramurals Fitness/Wellness Center: Initial Report on Infrastructure and Program Needs," the report, for the first time, documented the importance of an indoor climbing wall among Idaho State University students. Overall the wall was 7th priority in the survey, ranked closely with racquetball courts, tennis courts and an additional swimming pool.

Based on the results of the survey, Girvan floated a proposal to build an addition to Reed Gym with more basketball courts, locker rooms, an aerobic room--and, because of Scott Tyson's work, a climbing wall. In the early 1990s the ASISU Student Senate gave their stamp of approved for the addition to Reed Gym. Their approval specifically included a climbing wall. Sam Netuschil was a key senator who convinced other senators of need and importance of a indoor climbing facility at Idaho State.

When the first set of bids came back too high, the climbing wall along with other several other features were removed from the plans. Fortunately, however, the second set of bids came in under the amount available to the project. Once learning that extra project money would be available and knowing how important the climbing wall was to students, Darrell Buffaloe offered the assistance of his staff to build it. Darrell could have easily let things pass. It would have been a lot less headaches for him and a lot less work on the part of his staff, but Darrell is a confident, unassuming optimist and the kind of person who believes in making things happen. He immediately called a meeting with Ernie Naftzger from the Department of Student Affairs, the Outdoor Program staff and interested students. Shortly after, he hired Scott Vail, the designer of the outstanding climbing facility at Nampa, Idaho, to prepare plans for the Idaho State University wall. Richard Ropicky, ISU Construction Supervisor, headed up a talented team of Physical Plant employees and craftsmen which started working on how to put form and substance to Vail's drawings.

Attending a second meeting called by Darrell was Doug Milder who had just been hired as the new Campus Recreation Director and who would be in charge of the wall once it had been built. Immediately recognizing its potential, Doug enthusiastically embraced the idea and suggested extending the size of the wall. Also attending the meeting was Peter Joyce of the ISU Outdoor Program who had since taken Scott Tyson's place as Idaho State University's climbing instructor. Peter took Scott Vail's original plans and suggested a number of design changes to make sure the final structure would best serve the interests of all ISU students--whether beginners or advanced climbers. To help incorporate Peter's design changes into the plan, Darrell Buffaloe gave the go-ahead to Vail to extend the length of the wall from one wall of the gym to the another. Darrell didn't know it at the time, but he had just given his approval for construction of the largest wall ever built on any university campus.

During the winter of 1996-97, the ISU welding shop constructed the interior frame which consisted of an astonishing 20,000 feet (4 miles) of metal tubing. In the fall of 1997, the new addition to Reed Gym was completed, and as soon as the building's contractor moved out, ISU maintenance work crews moved in and began attaching the interior frame to the south side of the addition. The carpenter crew then took over, painstakingly cutting hundreds of sheets of 3/4" Baltic birch plywood the proper sizes and angles to the form the wall's skin. Peter Joyce made daily trips to gym, helping the carpenters cut and place panels and keeping them plied with rolls and coffee.

When the paint crew was finished, Peter who spent much of the previous winter ordering over 3,000 holds from 9 different manufacturers, organized a crew of students to put up the first set of climbing routes. Once the operational and safety plan for the wall was completed and wall supervisors trained, Peter turned the wall and its management over to Campus Recreation. It marked the end of a long journey by students, student government and several ISU departments--Outdoor Program, Physical Plant, Campus Recreation and the Department of Student Affairs--all of whom had embraced Scott Tyson's original dream. It had been circuitous and it had nearly been derailed, but, in the end, it had been a successful journey. The many climbers who have used it since the wall was first opened on March 2, 1998 would certainly agree with that.