PHOENIX (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) -- Climbing to the top of Camelback Mountain is hard enough. But if you've got the right mixture of guts, gear and guidance, Camelback has even more daring adventures.

Praying Monk, Camelback Mountain

The Praying Monk is arock formation on the north side of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

There's a little crag of rock called the Praying Monk. Standing at the top is a thrill few people ever get to experience.

"This is the first time I've ever done rope climbing, and I have a fear of heights, for sure," climber Jonathon Levi Tretheway said.

"So, there's the fear of falling because they've never taken any kind of a fall," Daniel Warren, a member of the Phoenix Fire Department Technical Rescue Team, said. "So, the first fear of pain, and just uncertainty of what they're supposed to do."

"That space between each anchor, you're kind of unprotected for that space," David Baumgartner, also part of the TRT, said.

"If you're afraid of heights, if you don't understand how extremely strong those ropes are, it's scary," Warren said.

[WATCH: Standing on top of Camelback Mountain's Praying Monk is daring adventure few will experience]

"So you go up, and you're attaching protection as you climb up, but you have to reach that protection, you have to climb up to it," Baumgartner explained.

Climbing the Praying Monk

"At first, I thought it was gonna be pretty simple," first-time rock climber Seth Free said. "But then, as I started looking for footholds and hand grabs and realized there were a lot fewer of them than I thought there were in the first place, it was ... it was scary."

"I think there's two fears that we're born with -- loud noises and heights," Baumgartner said. 

Baumgartner, Daniel Warren, and Tupac Enrique spent a recent day off from the TRT on the mountain showing four guys the ropes of rock climbing.

They've never climbed sheer rock, but they have climbed past the bad choices that landed them behind bars.

"I'm here with just, my brothers, you know, guys that I spent time in Arizona prison with," Kenny Pennington said.

"Kenny, myself, Levi and Todd, we've all served time in prison, and so we've all spent time together behind bars," Free said.

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain

They're getting the basics of rappelling and belaying, by going up and down the massive lump of rock that most of us see as the camel's head on Camelback.

At the top, a salute to friends still behind bars.

Twenty-five burpees on the camel's head in the hope that those inmates they've left behind will keep a pledge to stay in their fitness routines and out of trouble.

Burpees on Camelback Mountain

"Fitness originated from me going to prison," first-time climber Todd Andrew Adair said. "But since I got incarcerated about five years ago, it has been the major turning point in my life after getting clean."

"I guess it originally started off as just something to do, to fill the time," Tretheway said. "But then it became something that really helped me to deal with the trauma, dehumanization, the stresses and anxieties of being in prison."

Now, with David and Daniel as guides, it's time to dare the climb up the Praying Monk.

"In the end, I was hoping to get to the top of wherever we were climbing," Pennington said. "For me, getting there was a challenge to begin with."

But he was with excellent guides.

Climbing the Praying Monk

"And then we tell him, "Hey, relax. "Let go of the rock for a minute and sit back and look around, and take a deep breath."

"Well, when you make it to the top, you feel that sense of elation, and relief, knowing that you made it, and then you were scared on the way. I was," Free said.

His fellow climbers agreed.

"You just know that you did that. It's surreal up there, and it's peaceful."

"Um, I had to definitely overcome some fears," Tretheway said. "But it was wonderful; it was a beautiful experience. "When you put your mind to something, and you focus hard on it, and you push yourself towards a goal, you can reach that goal."

Climbing the Praying Monk

Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.



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(1) comment

JF Conlon

For years I've wondered why the name. Why not "Wart"? "Zit"? Now I know. Thanks!

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