At the ledges, rock climbing is a popular hobby

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Michigan State University graduate student Tom Hettinger walks next to one of the ledges on his way to begin climbing. Hettinger has been climbing for one and a half years.

Michigan State University graduate student Tom Hettinger walks next to one of the ledges on his way to begin climbing. Hettinger has been climbing for one and a half years.

By Kit Kuhne
Grand Ledge Gazette

GRAND LEDGE – If there is one thing that Grand Ledge is known for, it’s the ledges. Standing between 20 and 30 feet high, these sedimentary rock formations have been around for 250 million years or more, making them a tourist location for people all over  Michigan. But these ledges do not only attract tourists.

Residents from Grand Ledge, and the areas surrounding it, travel to Oak Park during the warm months to scale these ledges. According to Jessica Wortman, a graduate psychology student at Michigan State University, the difficulty of the ledges ranges from novice climbs to climbs that will challenge an experienced climber.

“There are climbs for basically every level,” Wortman said. “The climbs out there are all rated… They’ll range from something that you could probably get up slowly on your first day climbing versus something that you’re probably going to have to spend quite a bit of time practicing to get up successfully. There’s really something for all difficulty levels.”

Michigan State University student Tom Connor scales the side of the ledge. Connor has been climbing for over three years.

Michigan State University student Tom Connor scales the side of the ledge. Connor has been climbing for over three years.

Michigan State University graduate student Tom Hettinger has been climbing for a year and a half. He started his climbing career at the Grand Ledge ledges.

Hettinger’s favorite part about climbing is the challenge it provides and accomplishing the goals he sets for himself.

“[Climbing is about] reaching your goals and rewards,” Hettinger said. “Every time I accomplish something, there is always something else to do. Climb bigger things, harder things… There’s always something to improve on.”

And while it is a popular hobby among college students, Wortman clarifies that there are many other people who enjoy climbing as well.

“It’s pretty common hobby for lots of people, not just students,” Wortman said. “Most of the people that I climb with are not students at all, they’re just people that I’ve met when I’ve gone out to the ledges and started climbing.”

One of those people is Grand Ledge resident Bruce Bright. Bright has been living in Grand Ledge for the past eight years, but has been climbing at the ledges since 1967. Although his interest in climbing began at a young age.

“I fell on to [rock climbing] by accident,” said Bright, a retired high school teacher. “I had to do a book report in eighth grade and so I picked a book about a park ranger at Mount McKinley. I got interested in climbing through that English assignment.”

Pictured is Hettinger scaling a ledge at Oak Park,.

Pictured is Hettinger scaling a ledge at Oak Park.

Bright then went on to be a high school teacher, where his interest in rock climbing only grew.

“I taught Earth Science for quite a few years at the high school level, and I’ve been very interested in geology,” Bright said. “So when I went climbing, not only did I get to see spectacular areas, but they were extremely interesting just from a geological standpoint.”

Bright is now retired, and lives relatively close to the Ledges, which allow for him to continue his hobby.

“To be honest, getting older I don’t climb as much as I used to,” Bright said. “But at the same time I try and keep a hand in it… I [still] climb a fair amount.”

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