Walls for Climbers, Bulls for Riders

‘I hate being the go-to guy at school,” griped my husband Patrick. It seems he missed a meeting and got himself “volunteered” by some of his fellow teachers to run the activities at this year’s spring carnival.

“It’s a good thing you married the go-to gal,” I soothed.

“Rock-climbing walls are a great way to introduce children to heights in

a safe way,” said

Casey Cadwell of Rockrental.com in Alpine (866-254-6287). “They tend to stay popular because there’s always a new crop of children coming up who have never climbed anything so tall. People like to test their skills, see if they can handle it.”

Rockrental.com offers three rock-wall setups: a 25-footer, a 32-footer, and a 25-footer with attached trampolines. “The trampolines have harnessing poles over them; that allows the kids to do flips safely. They’re being pulled up by the poles and bungees and down by gravity, so they’re almost getting the feeling of being weightless. The 25-foot wall is plenty exciting for 90 percent of the people out there. The 32-footer is very intimidating — that extra 8 feet takes a lot of physical energy. It’s physically tough. A lot of kids can climb it only once.”

Each wall features four different ascents, ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. “You can have up to four climbers at a time, though there is a weight limit of 250 pounds per climber. The climbers are harnessed to an auto-belay system. If they fall, they’re lowered down slowly. We’ve had zero injuries in nine years of operation. We inspect all the cables and carabiners on each job, and we send a trained employee with each wall. If need be, we can send additional staff or train volunteers.”

A diesel truck hauls the wall to whatever relatively level location you designate. “We can do any private or public event — backyard birthday party to street fair. We do a lot of things with special-needs children — kids with autism — different groups that want a safe, controlled environment for children. We can put the walls anywhere you have solid ground — dirt, grass, asphalt, or concrete. We raise the wall with hydraulics and then put down extension arms to improve stability. There is no way these things can tip over.”

However, there are still some rules and restrictions. “We harness participants away from the wall, so that nobody drops down and lands on them. We don’t allow any flips on the wall, nor do we allow intoxicated climbers or bare feet. And if you’re pregnant or have a physical disability that could be aggravated, we ask you not to climb.”

Cadwell carries a $2 million aggregate insurance policy, “…and that’s enough for most people. But if a company requires extra insurance, we can provide that for an additional $50 per name on the certificate.”

Costs for the walls are as follows: 25-foot, $225 per hour; 25-foot with trampolines, $325 per hour; 32-foot, $250 per hour. Prices cover rentals of two to three hours; if the walls are rented for longer periods, the price per hour decreases. There is also a delivery charge of $1.25 per mile round trip from the company’s El Cajon warehouse. “Our busy season runs from the end of March all the way through October, but we can generally help people with a week or two of advance notice.”

Though the walls had caught my fancy, Cadwell pointed out that the company also offered dunk tanks, inflatable slides, jumpies, “extreme air” jumpers, and mechanical bulls.

“They’re the most novel. Kids and adults really seem to enjoy watching and participating. You’re not harnessed into those, but there’s an inflatable mattress underneath if you get thrown.” (Mechanical bull runs $950 for two hours, $150 each hour after that. Delivery is $1 per mile, round trip out of Santee. Level ground on a 21’x21’ footprint required, plus electrical hookup within 30’. See website for details.)

Other walls around town: San Diego Kids’ Party Rentals (858-272-2700) offers 25- and 32-foot walls. Same pricing structure and delivery rates as Rockrental.com. Deliveries out of El Cajon.

Climb-It Mobile Climbing Walls (760-432-0351) offers 25-foot walls delivered from Escondido (30 miles free; $1 per mile after that). Two-hour minimum, $200 for the first two hours and $150 for each hour after that. Six hours for $900, eight hours for $1150.

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