- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dave Hudson knows he has done his job well when he’s got the 15 students in his class climbing the walls. Mr. Hudson teaches rock-climbing courses and coaches a team of competitive climbers at Earth Treks Climbing Center, a rock-climbing school and gym with locations in Rockville, Columbia and Timonium, Md.

On this day, Mr. Hudson, director of the indoor climbing school, leads the competitive climbing team through a “light” workout, climbing the 44-foot walls of the Columbia gym.

Mr. Hudson, 28, firmly plants himself on the ground, hooked to a rope that secures the student on his or her ascent. When the climber reaches the top of the wall, Mr. Hudson belays the climber back to the ground.

Mr. Hudson spends most of the class at the rope, sending words of encouragement or direction to his climbers, who traverse one of the routes up the wall. He only seldom gets on the wall himself during a class.

“Very rarely do I let them hold my rope — because I don’t trust them,” Mr. Hudson says with a laugh. “These kids all climb better than I do anyway.”

The team includes climbers from 9 to 18 years old, some of whom are nationally ranked.

The goal of indoor climbing classes, Mr. Hudson says, is to learn how to climb outdoors.

He walks back and forth between students, checking on the healing shoulder of Kathryn Brown, a 13-year-old who placed 28th in the nation for her age group in a recent competition, and helping Amy Norton, 17, get over her fear of falling.

Amy, of Ellicott City, Md., climbs to the top of the 44-foot peak and shouts to Mr. Hudson that she’s ready.

He gathers slack and releases the rope, allowing her to fall about 20 feet until he stops the rope and she stops midair.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t scream anymore,” says Amy, who has been climbing for four years. “The first time, I screamed.”

Climbers are required to take “whips” like this to learn how to fall — to keep their body parallel with the wall with their limbs extended so they don’t hit the wall with their back or side.

“Nice one,” he says with a high-five as she reaches the ground.

Though Mr. Hudson sometimes prefers to teach adults — “they pay attention the whole time” — he has a reputation for working well with younger climbers.

“Some kids tend to remove themselves from the blatant fear [of falling] that adults have,” he says.

Mr. Hudson is well over that fear. He began climbing in 1995 and often spends his free time scaling the cliffs of Carderock. or Great Falls.

He began teaching classes at Earth Treks, which has about 1,000 members between its three gyms, six years later. He teaches beginning, advanced and adult-level courses, and organizes summer camps, international climbing trips and the teams for regional competitions.

“There’s that saying, ‘if you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life,’” he says. “This falls into the same idea. I love rock climbing, talking about rock climbing, showing it to others and explaining my passion to them.”

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