Climbing Builds Confidence, Identity for Kelsey

Julia Sabey, Staff Writer

Jonah Kelsey has been rock climbing alongside his dad for as long as he can remember. His dad’s love for the sport inspired Kelsey to pursue it.  He has been a member of a climbing team called the East Betas for 8 months.

“It’s a teen team, so I’m with other teenagers of varying skill levels that want to be at least somewhat competitive,” Kelsey explained. He also explained that instead of the rock climbing, he “boulders.” “You don’t use ropes or harnesses, so it’s much more technique and it’s quicker, but you do more of it [climbing],” he said.

Kelsey’s bouldering team practices at a fitness center in Oakland called Great Western Power Company. “I go for the lessons twice a week from 5-7, but I usually go a lot more than that just to practice.”

Instead of relying on ropes and harnesses to keep them safe, Kelsey and his teammates have absorbent crash pads to soften any falls. On why he prefers bouldering to the classic rope climbing, Kelsey said, “I don’t really enjoy ropes – takes too long to set up.” Although Kelsey mostly boulders indoors, his team sometimes takes trips to rock climbing destinations.

Kelsey’s dad was an avid rock climber. According to Kelsey’s mother, Megan Rundel, “he took Jonah along for years.” In addition to the father-son bonding rock climbing provided, his mother added that “rock climbing has had many benefits for Jonah. It has given him confidence, identity, challenge, and physical fitness. It also gives him a chance to get to know a diverse group of teens, many who come from different backgrounds than his.”

Kelsey’s mom is rather unique herself- after 32 years of training, she is a buddhist sensei. “She teachers other people how to meditate, how to respond to koans [Buddhist meditation discipline],” Kelsey explained.