TOMBSTONE — It’s a cool, breezy March morning as brothers Jake Lara-Hughes, 13, and James Leck, 15, get geared up for a rock climbing adventure.
They plan to tackle a rock formation on the west side of the Dragoon Mountains, located about 12 miles northeast of Tombstone. Expert rock climbing instructor Joshua Klingbeil, the lead guide for Tombstone Adventure Company, will be coaching the two as they try rock climbing for the first time.
Klingbeil fits them with harnesses, helmets and special footwear while going over basic instructions. He then climbs the rock face to set a route for the boys while demonstrating his climbing technique.
Kathy Lara, the boys’ mother, works for the Benson Visitor Center. She’s there capturing the activity on video from start to finish. Lara plans to put her sons’ climbing adventure on the visitor center’s social media sites where they can be viewed on Facebook and instagram.
“People have been cooped up for a year now because of COVID, so the visitor center wanted to come up with family-fun outdoor recommendations in our area,” Lara said. “With spring break here, we were looking for outdoor activities that follow CDC guidelines so folks can get out and do things again.”
Tombstone Adventure Company’s rock climbing activity serves as an ideal kickoff for a series the visitor center is in the process of compiling, Lara said.
Meanwhile, Klingbeil is starting his progression up the rock formation, pausing at different spots along the way while giving pointers to Lara-Hughes and Leck as they watch from the ground.
“When you start up the rock face, you want to find a foot hold, transfer your weight to the foot hold, then find a hand hold for balance,” Klingbeil said as he started his ascent, making it look easy. “While moving up the rock, remember to use your feet while transferring your weight. Your hands are for balance only.”
Caprice Ortivez of Tombstone Adventure Company is on the ground with Lara and her two sons and watches her partner as he scales up the rock.
“You don’t need to have experience in climbing to do this,” she said. “This particular rock face has about 19 different routes that we can climb, and there are routes for all experience levels. Since these guys have no experience at all, we’re going to start them on an easy route and we’ll see how they do.”
Klingbeil sets a top rope system for the participants by clipping onto bolts along the way, and then anchors the rope onto a bolt at the top of the route, creating a safe and secure climbing system.
“When participants do this, there is no chance of falling,” Ortivez said. “These guys will be on a leash, and they’re not going anywhere. This is a very safe two-rope system with a pulley.”
After returning to the ground, Klingbeil checks Leck’s equipment, makes a couple of minor adjustments to ensure he is ready for the climb, and coaches him while he works his way up the rock. Once he’s back on the ground, Lara-Hughes is next.
From the spectacular views, to the thrill of scaling a rock face, both say they’re hooked.
“They absolutely loved it!” Lara exclaimed. “Joshua and Caprice are fantastic instructors. They took their time with the boys, were very patient and answered all their questions. My boys felt completely safe and can’t wait to go back and do it again.”
Lara’s endorsement means a lot to Tombstone Adventure, Ortivez said.
“We were excited about inviting Lara and her sons to experience rock climbing. The Benson Visitor Center is giving us a great way to showcase our services,” she added. “With the economic slowdown caused by COVID, we’ve dropped our normal guiding rate to an extraordinary ‘two-for-the-price-of-one,’ at $225 per pair during March and April.”
Describing the current price as “hands down the best rate in Arizona,” Ortivez said the company’s goal is to offer Cochise County residents and visitors an affordable rock climbing adventure. Two people get a full climbing package, complete with the private lesson and gear, along with sessions that range between four and six hours.”
“We’re doing this at a time when nearly all indoor activities and forms of entertainment are unavailable to the public,” Ortivez said.
Tombstone Adventure Company has been providing guided rock climbing services in the area since 2017, while Klingbeil has 28 years experience as a climber.
“As far as COVID concerns go, we’re in an open-air environment with tons of room to spread out,” Ortivez said. “We practice social distancing as much as possible and wear masks if that’s what our participants want. While doing the actual climbing activity, you’re facing a rock wall, and are not close to other people.”
Rock climbing is an excellent way to spend time outdoors with friends and family, she added.
“Even if you have never thought of giving climbing a try, or have no experience, we are here to make this adventure happen for you. We make it fun and easy by outfitting and guiding you up the various routes we have available,” Ortivez said.
Tombstone Adventure Company has 25 different spectacular climbs for families to experience.
“We just got a taste of what they have to offer,” Lara said. “After seeing how much my boys enjoyed doing this, we’re (Benson Visitor Center) very excited that we had this opportunity to use Tombstone Adventure Company to kick off our outdoor activity series.”