By ROBERT LACOSTA
This article is the first one in a series.
Dennis O’Leary is not a big kid because he’s a 76-year-old rock climber and spelunker. But he has hosted thousands of little and medium children and adults of any size to his indoor climbing and caving paradise called Albany’s Indoor Rock Gym.
It’s the only one of its kind in the nation that combines elaborate tunnels behind the climbing walls. Squeals of delight come from these hidden holes that one has to experience to believe. In fact, it’s almost impossible to successfully navigate the entire cave staying completely forward.
“We were the Orville Wright’s of inside caving,” he jokes.
It took two years to design and modify the elaborate gym and only an experienced spelunker could have made it challenging, safe and surprising with twists and turns so ingenious that nobody has ever memorized his design. He drew on years of knowledge.
“I’ve assisted in the research of the world’s longest cave in Kentucky which has 400 miles of connecting caves,” he said.
With regard to rock climbing, he notes that he’s usually the oldest or one of the oldest on his expeditions. The New York State Certified Rock Climbing and White Water Rafting Guide sees age as an advantage when it comes to scaling and planning.
“Experience helps you come to a pitch and recognize it or see it as a variation and you’re able to pick the line you want to take and yet foresee how to escape it or revise,” O’Leary says. “It’s like a regular trail, only this one is a vertical trail. With regard to movements, you learn from experience that every motion you make is essentially weight lifting and so you engage your legs. You have to distribute mass by complimenting leg and arm coordination. It’s like chess – figuring out your next move.”
Although no chess champion to date has ever fallen off their chair.
“There’s the basic fear of falling,” he says, “so you don’t practice high and you learn from experts.”
And now, you know where to find one.
NEXT COLUMN: Explore O’Leary’s Glenmont Bio Reserve!
The author’s books, devotional blogs and music is available on robertlacosta.com.