Kevin O'Donnell is a man with dynamic moves. As a rock climber and employee of Rocks and Ropes, an indoor climbing gym, O'Donnell is always geared up and in his harness. Although he prefers to climb on Mount Lemmon or the Cochise Stronghold, this climber needs his gym time in order to train. Rocks and Ropes, located downtown at 330 S. Toole Ave., No. 400, recently completed a six-month expansion project; they doubled the amount of top ropes, built new walls and forklifted a 13-foot boulder into the center of the gym. Call 882-5924 or visit www.rocksandropes.com for more information.

Tucson is a health-conscious place. If you had to argue against yoga and for climbing, what would your argument be?

Well, actually, most climbers do yoga, because it helps them become better climbers.

Who is the most hardcore climber that frequents this joint?

My friend Scott Archibald. We started climbing together about four years ago, and last year, he bought a van and has been living in it. He got so dedicated to climbing that he only works once every other weekend; (he) makes that money so he can pay for gas. He's lived in about 10 different areas around the western part of the United States, climbing.

Why are you so obsessed with climbing?

I truly love to be away from everybody, and that's why I climb outside. That's why you climb in the gym: to get ready to climb outside. I love the challenge and the physical movement. Not many people can do what climbers can do, or not many people will do what climbers will do.

Outside climbing routes are named by the person who completed the first ascent. Have you come across any humorous route names?

"Fuck Me Pumps." I have no idea why it is called that. One's called "Stoner's Boner." On that route, a part of the rock is shaped like that part of the body. They're (both) on Mount Lemmon.

How did you get into such an extreme sport?

I got started when a couple friends and I bought a rope and did some stupid stuff in Sabino Canyon, and found out just how much fun it can be. Then we bought an actual climbing rope and a bunch of carabiners, some climbing shoes and climbing harnesses, and (we) went and did more stupid stuff on real rock. We didn't get any instruction. We went to Summit Hut and read a bunch of books, spent an hour there everyday just reading on how to do everything.

Would you recommend that beginners approach climbing in the same way?

Absolutely not. No, no way. First, they should come in here. We can get them started on everything. We can actually teach them almost everything they need to know. Other than that, pretty much how it works is you end up having a mentor, climbing with someone older who has been climbing for a while, then you kind of learn how everything works.

Why the renovation?

We've been here since '92, and it was just time. We were running out of space. We had to start capping the number of people we could have come in, because we only had 26 ropes, and there would be 100 people in here. Now, anyone can find an open rope at any time.

What's your favorite nook in the gym?

I like the new boulder, that and what we call the "New Wall" on the north side. The angle is absolutely perfect for training. You can do almost anything on there that you can find on an outside route. The boulder is cool because it is very realistic to real rock. I have put up more than 200 individual boulder problems on it. It's just a really neat piece of rock ... I mean, fake rock.

What advice do you have for people attempting the new boulder?

Find the easy way up, because you've got to be able to climb down it. I had to carry a person down once. She got scared on top and didn't think she could climb down, so I went up there and lowered her down.

Why is a boulder your best friend?

It's cheaper. You don't have to buy all the gear. You only have to have a pair of shoes and a chalkbag, and maybe a crash pad, instead of buying thousands of dollars' worth of gear.

So, it's like having a friend who isn't high maintenance?


I was at a boulder head past Gates Pass, and there was a queen-size mattress next to it. Is there something we should know about climbers, or how do you explain this one?

I guess the mattress is supposed to be a crash pad that no one wants to move.

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