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Rock climber -- John Black

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You're nuts! Are you out of your mind?

Why on earth would you want to go rock climbing?

Express an interest in rock climbing and that's what most people would probably say to you.

Not John Black.

"Ballet on the side of a cliff" is how he describes his favorite sport.

"It's a wonderful feeling to be able to fluidly move through a vertical section of rock," Black explains.

"A lot of people think that climbing is something only crazy people do because it's very dangerous. This is just not true. It's actually a very safe sport when practiced by people who know what they are doing."

For Black, rock climbing was a natural extension of his love for hiking, backpacking and being outdoors in the mountains where he could "refresh my soul and breathe the clean air." He found himself wanting to explore the mountains and cliffs of the back country more intensely, but lacked the skills and training to do so. So he took a beginner's climbing class with the University of California at Berkeley and hasn't looked back (or down) since.

In 1994, Black spent four months in Yosemite National Park as a member of the rock climbing search and rescue team. "We would be called upon to rescue climbers who might be stranded on the 3,000-foot vertical face of El Capitan or we might have to carry down a hiker who had broken her ankle on a rocky trail. I rode in helicopters, rappelled down cliffs and learned a lot about emergency medicine in those four months."

Now Black is teaching rock climbing to beginners. He reminds his students that rock climbing is safe as long as they remember the key "always know what you are doing."

In his spare time (when he's not rock climbing), Black is pursuing his PhD in computer science at UC Davis, enjoys playing chess and volleyball, seeing movies and hanging around with his friends.

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