Looming above an old grease pit inside a former gas station stands one of the newest additions to UVA's Outdoor Recreation Center: an indoor bouldering wall.

Just over a year old, the wall is quickly gaining a following with students, who regularly fill up a wait list to chalk up their hands and scurry up and across the 400-square-foot wall.

But the wall is more than rocks for jocks, says John McCall, assistant director of the center. Students come here to get a workout, sure, but the wall gives their minds just as much exercise.

Students regularly fill up a wait list to traverse the Outdoor Recreation Center's new bouldering wall.
"People who come here regularly are looking for new problems to solve," says McCall. "It's as much an intellectual challenge as a physical one. They try to solve for getting across one particular route, and then when they finally figure it out, they will try for another."

That means McCall and Mark Voorhees, the center's director, have to keep switching out the dozens of the colorful faux rocks, or holds, every semester to create new paths for students to traverse.

Bouldering differs from indoor rock climbing in that participants do not use any ropes. Bouldering walls are lower than indoor rock climbing walls and have steeper angles; the center's sharpest juts out 27 degrees. The flooring below is a mat nearly a foot thick, which rests atop a frame hovering inside the building's old grease pit.

"So much of education is simply exposure, giving people a chance to learn something new," says Voorhees. "If you give them a basic skill set, show them what equipment they are going to need and let them meet some people with similar interests, it will be an opportunity to be able to think in new and different ways."