Stretching Beyond: Climbing Offers Social Connections and Challenges

Karen Schaar grew up in the safety-net of Chicago suburbs. She went to college at Gustavas Adoplphs in Minnesota and studied abroad in New Zealand where she started climbing. “My first experiences climbing were exhilarating,” she explains.

After college, she climbed for a couple of years in Flagstaff, Arizona, a place that Karen says “has some amazing outdoor climbing.” While climbing, she met people from around the world who inspired her sense
of adventure. 


When Karen moved to Rochester (in 2004), a co-worker invited her to climb indoors at Prairie Walls Climbing Gym, where she met Jeremy Schaar. Just two weeks after meeting, they took a climbing trip together to the Black Hills and Devils Tower, Wyoming. They are now married with children. Karen and Jeremy understand the importance of having family activities to do together and designed the new Roca Climbing & Fitness facility to be family-friendly. 

Karen explains, “Jeremy Schaar designed the entire facility in his head. He has been extrememly thoughtful of the variety of climbers coming in here and how they will use the facility. From the anxious beginner to the expert who wants the ultimate indoor climbing, we have it all. We have a lot of features that mimic outdoors, including cracks in the walls.” The ceiling-high windows allow sunlight to radiate on the walls and the garage door will be open let in fresh air.

Karen’s degree is in education with a focus in health and physical education and a minor in coaching. She also earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Minnesota (2012). She wants Roca Climing & Fitness gym to be a healthy place for the community to enjoy. Climbing lends itself to different age groups coming together. The gym is designed to have social areas. There is space to relax and watch other climbers.


“I was so pleased when we opened our doors to see women coming in right away. I have met my best friends through climbing,” comments Karen. Climbing helps women gain confidence and overcome challenges. Its an individual, yet social sport. 

“Not a lot of women were into climbing when I started [in the late 1990s],” Karen explains. She developed her own strength, flexibility and body awareness through gymnastics in high school. She wasn’t able to continue gymnastics after high school, but climbing continues to challenge her to stretch beyond. 

“I think it has really made me who I am. I need the challenge [of climbing],” comments Karen.