Socorro Field Office invites high school students to experience rock climbing on public lands

Story by Nathan Wagliardo, archaeologist intern. Photos by Nathan Wagliardo and courtesy of Merissa Tafoya-Chavez.

On Sept. 21, students from Magdalena High School in Magdalena, New Mexico participated in a rock climbing course led by the New Mexico Tech Climbing Team and hosted by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) New Mexico Socorro Field Office recreation staff. The event, held in celebration of National Public Lands Day, took place at the BLM-managed The Box Recreation Area, which is home to several hundred rock climbing and bouldering routes near the town of Socorro, New Mexico.

Two people climbing the rock face with four people on the ground below.
Magdalena High School students enjoy cool rock in the morning shade at Waterfall Wall climbing area in The Box Recreation Area. (Photo by Nathan Wagliardo)

The Socorro Field Office partners with the New Mexico Tech Climbing Team to provide high school students with the opportunity to try out a new sport while exploring their public lands. This partnership offers outdoor educational experiences that are often not available to students in rural school districts such as Magdalena.

Students received instruction from Scott Roberts, head coach of the New Mexico Tech Climbing Team and coordinator of the university’s outdoor recreation programs. Volunteers from the New Mexico Tech Climbing Team were also present to supervise the participants and offer a safe and fun experience for all.

A New Mexico Tech Climbing Club instructor speaks to a group of students gathered in a circle.
Students learn about safety equipment from New Mexico Tech Climbing Club instructors. (Photo by Nathan Wagliardo)

Participants in the class, none of whom had ever rock climbed before, displayed their determination by doggedly attacking the routes selected for the event, each a different style of climbing and a different degree of difficulty. By the end of the day, each student had made progress on their chosen climbs thanks to the encouragement of their peers and the guidance of the volunteer instructors. Magdalena High School staff who accompanied the students as chaperones even had the opportunity to challenge themselves on the rock face.

A student is climbing the rock face while a staff member below is holding a purple rope and watching the student.
Hands-on instruction in climbing technique helps participants reach new heights. (Photo by Nathan Wagliardo)

Many of the participants were unaware that The Box, a notable landmark along the highway from Magdalena to Socorro, is managed by the BLM and open to the public. Participants also learned first-hand about how BLM’s recreation staff cooperates with recreational user groups like the New Mexico Tech Climbing Team to successfully manage recreation on public land. In the case of rock climbing at The Box, the local rock climbing community works within guidelines established by BLM to ensure that climbing routes are developed and maintained in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner.

A group of 11 students and staff pose for a photo.
Magdalena High School students and staff pause for a photo after a fun and challenging morning of climbing. (Photo courtesy of Merissa Tafoya-Chavez)

The students gained a newfound appreciation for the recreational opportunities that public lands provide, as well as a deeper understanding of the challenges that public land managers face in balancing recreational usage with environmental health and other concerns. Many students expressed their gratitude at the opportunity to try a sport that they thought they would never be able to do. At the end of the event, the participants left with the confidence that, through perseverance, they could accomplish any task they set their mind to. 

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