A ‘gradual increase’

Senior reflects on his rock climbing journey


Darcy Leber

Senior Ben Henderson pauses to determine his next step at Climb Time Indy on Jan. 27. This was one of the 4-5 times he went to the gym that week.

Back in March 2021, senior Ben Henderson’s interest in the unique sport of rock climbing was unexpectedly sparked by something simple: a National Geographic documentary.
“After seeing that documentary, I wanted to try it, and something just clicked,” Henderson said. “I knew I could do it.”
From hiking outside to rock climbing, Henderson has, through these activities, become the athlete that he is today. Being the first member of his family to seriously dedicate himself to the sport of rock climbing, he jumped up into the challenge almost two years ago when he made the decision to start taking professional climbing lessons. Henderson joined the Climb Time Indy club, a climbing gym where he generally spends four to five days a week, pushing himself to the limits of his climbing abilities.
Henderson enjoys the diversity within the different groups of people in the club because it makes climbing an enjoyable environment for him. He likes the company of his everyday gym mates just as much as the new people that are coming into the gym as complete beginners. Their willingness to try reminds him of when he was just starting out.
“It’s always fun to see groups of kids having fun and people learning,” Henderson said. “Everyone is always there to help each other and have fun.”
Henderson is aware of the potential drawbacks of all the time that he dedicates to perfecting his climbing skills weekly. However, he is sure that the effort is always rewarded. He sees rock climbing as a similar activity to lifting weights when striving for a new personal record: a continuous cycle of personal improvement. With this mindset, he has always thought of it as a very satisfactory activity.
“It’s just a big relief,” Henderson said. “It’s a good landmark to see your hard work pay off: Something that I couldn’t do yesterday, I can do today.”
Even though Henderson likes to keep his options widely open to new climbing styles, he does have a personal favorite. His guilty pleasure is known as bouldering, a rock climbing style in which the climbers are not being secured by ropes while they are completing the route. According to him, as terrifying as it may sound, it is actually safer than people think. Though the routes are more difficult, they are also shorter and lower.
When it comes to bouldering, the difficulty level is measured by a V-scale, that goes from V0 being the lowest, to V17 being the highest ever achieved. In fact, only two people in the world have ever been able to complete a route with such difficulty, while most average climbers out there are focused on V5 levels.
But, Henderson has gone further already.
After being completely devoted to the sport for not even two entire years, he managed to do something that most people can’t in such a short amount of time. One of his biggest accomplishments has been going from a beginner group to intermediate, and then to a higher intermediate group. Now the climbing difficulty is at a greater difficulty level than the V5 borders mentioned.
Nevertheless, he isn’t ashamed to admit that there are always way more failures than wins. Additionally, this is actually

Henderson places his foot on the next block as he reaches the top of the wall. photo by Darcy Leber

Henderson’s favorite part of it all. He believes that this way there is a bigger range of error, and for that matter, an even bigger range for improvement.
“Most of my time, it’s been failure. 95% of the time I’m going up and falling off and having to figure out what to change,” Henderson said. “I like the gradual increase of accomplishment. There
is always something harder to try.”
Henderson has always relied on his dad, Michael Henderson, and he believes that he is his biggest supporter. They started this journey together as hiking partners throughout summer until his dad suggested that he try something more challenging. He even paid for Henderson’s first-year membership at Climb Time Indy when he didn’t have enough money to pay for it himself.
As a parent knowing that one’s kid is so involved with what’s known as a risky sport may not be the most comforting thought. But for Michael, it has been the opposite. He feels inspired by the
passion that his son is experiencing, and he loves seeing him so dedicated, despite the risks.
“I trust Ben,” Michael said. “We’ve done a lot of outdoor adventures together, so I don’t worry too much about him. I know he makes good, smart decisions.”
Though rock climbing is mostly a solitary sport, some of Henderson’s closest friends, like senior Sam Brookshire, have had the chance to experience the climbing with him. Before doing it together, Brookshire remembers climbing a couple of times throughout his life, but according to him, none of the previous experiences could compare to doing it by Henderson’s side.
“Climbing with Ben was a lot more fun. I’ve known him since fourth grade, so having that connection already was fun,” Brookshire said. “Since he is way more experienced than me, he is able to help me. He showed me different routes that I wouldn’t have done on my own.”
In the future, Henderson’s major goal is to leave the artificial rocks behind and get ready for the real ones. He has always wanted to get involved in the world of outdoor climbing, and he would love to eventually climb out West.

One of the things that his friends most admire about his story is the amount of dedication that he has had. Brookshire explained how hobbies can end up being very linear and then plateau.

According to him, a great number of people may reach their initial goals and then never look for better and new ones. To him, Henderson has proved otherwise.
“Dedication to anything is cool, to have the perseverance to keep it going,” Brookshire said. “He’s continued to keep improving on everything.”
For Henderson, there is so much more to see and learn in the unique world of rock climbing, but he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I’ve had a lot of hobbies throughout my life, but this is something that has stuck with me,” Henderson said. “I’ve found out that I really love it, and I wanna do it as long as I’ll be able to.”