Hans Linna grew up in the vast and glorious outdoors playground of Marquettemountain biking, backpacking, just being out there—but for whatever reason, he never knew that people climbed rocks for fun there. But then he learned.

When did you start climbing? About three years ago, a year after I started working at Downwind Sports (a topflight outfitter in Marquette). A lot of people who work there climb and one of the owners took me out.

Did you take to it naturally? No, it definitely took me a while to get the hang of it. When you see rock climbers on TV and in magazines, it seems they are relying on brute strength to get to the top, so you have a tendency to do that. But in reality it’s about technique and using as little energy as possible. It just took me a while to make that transitionfrom strength to finesse.

What about the height issue? I thought that might be something, but it was more exhilarating to be up high in the air like that. When you first start, it’s natural to be nervous about being exposed on rock, but a big part of overcoming that is familiarizing yourself with the set up and safety procedures and the equipment. All safety is doubled up. The number of rock climbing incidents is phenomenally low. Statistically speaking, rock climbing carries for lower risk than snowmobiling, which is very big up here. But I strongly recommend that beginners climb with somebody experienced.

What else would you tell somebody looking to get into climbing? First thing is, rock climbing is not that expensive to get into. Especially if you are climbing with experienced climbers who have a lot of the more specialized pieces of equipment. A climbing harness, a locking carabiener and a belay device can all be had for under $100. Climbing shoes can get expensive, but they start at about $70. I’d also say to try climbing at a climbing gym—you can meet other climbers there too. Take some climbing lessons—NMU (Northern Michigan University) offers classes, and Downwind will have a Climbing 101 class this summer.

How’s about some recommended climbs for beginners? A great place to start near Marquette is the Negaunee Slab. It’s not a completely vertical climb, so it’s nice for learning technique and not using a lot of muscle strength, and there’s a decent amount of vertical, so you get comfortable with climbing and have a great view at the top. It’s also easy enough that you can do it, so you won’t be spending your time at the bottom frustrated, and you’ll want to do it again.

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Care to share a “this is why I do it” climbing moment? One of my favorite climbs is on Presque Isle (not far from downtown Marquette), called The Pinnacle. It’s an exposed column of rock right on the water. A couple of times last summer, I would go there very early in the morning with a climbing partner, and we’d set up the climb with daylight just starting to break. And when the sun comes up …that sunlight just hits the rock, and it is just a beautiful time to be outside. It’s one of my favorite routes to climb because it is so picturesque. Then you can take a dip in the lake and get to work by 9 a.m. A customer will show up and say, Hey, are you going out climbing? And I say, “I already did.”

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