SI Vault
January 19, 1987
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January 19, 1987


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Students at North Carolina State will soon be climbing the Wall. They're eager for the school's new Carmichael gym annex to open officially next month so they can go up to the third floor and, under the supervision of experienced rock-climbing instructors, make their assaults on an 80-foot-long, 28-foot-high ersatz stone cliff built of steel and blown-on concrete. It is believed to be the world's most realistic indoor climbing wall—complete with outcroppings, fissures, ledges and even painted-on lichen—and university officials hope it will further enhance N.C. State's already extensive outdoor recreation program. "We haven't been able to find any other wall like it," says wall sculptor Dwight Holland, who also designed artificial rocks for the North Carolina Zoological Park. "It really looks and feels like you're out climbing on a mountain."

The Wall was dreamed up by former N.C. State rock-climbing instructor John Bercaw. Its $75,000 cost was entirely paid for with student fees. "Our student body is excited about outdoor-type activities," says Richard Lauffer, head of the university's physical education department, which offers courses ranging from rock climbing to backpacking to scuba diving. "We're putting a real emphasis in that area." Students at N.C. State must take two years of phys ed to graduate, but in the past, rock-climbing classes have had to travel several hours from the Raleigh campus to find suitable terrain. "Now, even in winter they can immediately test out the techniques they've studied in books," says Lauffer.

The routes up the rock vary in difficulty, so that beginners and experts alike will be challenged. Climbing instructors have already nicknamed the routes. The appellations include Brickyard, Scarface and the Slab. And there's one other that's most appropriate in Wolfpack country: the Wolfs Den.

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