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In The Faces Of fear

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He escaped with little more than sweaty palms and heart palpitations and was able to finish the climb. Although Wanvig has never been seriously injured in his 26 years of rock climbing, he says climbers "always leave a little skin on the rocks.''

He concedes that there have been moments, while groping for a jutting hand hold or a crack to wedge his toe into, when he wasn't sure he could find the maneuver that would keep him on the vertical, flat-as-an-ironingboard rock face. But learning to confront those moments of fear has drawn him to rock climbing: "I've come to kind of look for it,'' he says. "Fear just wraps itself around you. You tend to just let it happen--you exist with it, and inch your way through it.''

Wanvig, who teaches at Southwest Senior High School in Minneapolis, has followed his rock-climbing passion to Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, British Columbia--even as far as Japan. With weekend trips and longer summer excursions, he figures he climbs and mountaineers about two months a year.

Wanvig never climbs alone and never without ropes. He sometimes ventures upward with friends and often brings groups of students on climbs. "Climbing gets them out in a situation where they've got something in their hands,'' he says. "It gets them close to the earth. An experience like that can only be meaningful.''

Elizabeth Schulz

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