Photo © Jason Lugo

An old adage speculates that those who can’t do, teach. However, this saying is in no way applicable to David Weber.
A rock climbing enthusiast and teacher of math and sciences at Shoshone High School for 20 years, he never lets his teaching get in the way of his doing. When the district moved its high school to a new K-12 facility just south of town, all but the gymnasium and its adjoining structures were slated for demolition. They provided a stage, which the new school would lack, and an ideal location for basketball practices. The only space left unclaimed was an old weight room. This presented Weber with a perfect opportunity to “do”.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Dave Weber reaches the top of the wall.

Working with the help of his wife, Norene, in just a year half of the room’s walls were scattered with climbing holds ranging from chips (tiny holds barely big enough to balance the tips of ones’ fingers or toes) to jugs (deep pockets that fit several fingers to support weight). A four-walled island in the middle of the room was also constructed, roughly 5×13 feet at its base and extending to the ceiling at a different angle on each side.

Today, 15 years later, each wall is covered in holds. The gym boasts two horizontal routes across ceilings, several overhangs and multiple wall cracks (imitating natural rocks where holds may be limited to a mere crack in the rock face). And they’re nearly always adding (or scheming to add) more. At the very least holds are consistently switched out to keep routes interesting for the regulars; many of whom now often pitch in on the building process. For these climbers the gym has become as much a labor of love as it is for David and Norene. In fact, many of David’s regular clientele include his former students.

Though Weber sheepishly jokes that his favorite part about being a teacher is summer, he coaches and heckles past students like they’re old friends suggesting a deeper connection to a profession he’d never intended to land. A former Marine from Connecticut, he moved to Idaho to attend culinary school at the College of Southern Idaho.

“I decided Connecticut just wasn’t my cup of tea—it was too crowded and there weren’t enough mountains,” said Weber.

The program was a year long and gave him a free summer to seize Idaho opportunities like working at the School of Urban and Wilderness Survival (SUWS) north of Shoshone. It was enough to pique his interest in wilderness survival and working with high-risk youth that he spent the following two years with a similar program in Montana.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Dave Weber helps a young climber on the wall.

There he first discovered his passions for climbing, kayaking and backpacking—all of which he still does avidly today. After two years in Montana, Idaho drew him back for a teaching degree in math and science at the University of Idaho. A year after graduation he began his first teaching job in Shoshone where he’s been ever since. He still still travels regularly around Idaho and, as often as possible, around the continent to find the next great climb or rapid. He’s hoping his next big adventure will be a climbing trip to Greece. It would be the first time leaving the continent since his days as a Marine.

When asked about his favorite places to climb in the states he replied, “They’re all cool, but I really like Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the New River Gorge in West Virginia and everyone likes Yosemite.”

When the weather allows and he’s not teaching or at the climbing gym, he can often be found with friends of all ages and climbing abilities at the City of Rocks, Dierkes Lake or other Idaho outdoor climbing hot spots. Often along with him is former student, David Saras.

“He was a great teacher and mentor in and out of school, and is now a great friend that is always up for anything adventurous outdoors. People like him are hard to come by this day and age,” said Saras of Weber.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Dave works his way up the incline wall.

He’s best known around Shoshone for almost always ridden his bicycle to school, his explosive “HEH HEH!” guffaws and for building one of the most extensive climbing facilities—and unquestionably the most reasonably priced—in Southern Idaho. Anyone who has dabbled in indoor climbing knows that many climbing gyms charge anywhere from $15-$30 per person, not including cost of equipment rental. David charges about $3 per person to climb and has shoes available to borrow (not rent, since there is no additional charge to use them) in a wide variety of styles and sizes.

In addition to a great workout and tips from Weber (who is quite an expert), visitors to the gym often walk away the better for having spent time around a man with such a contagious zest for life and joy of teaching.

For now, and until school lets out, David can be found teaching physics, chemistry, and an assortment of math classes ranging from algebra to advanced math during the day. From 4:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday he can be found at the gym on highway 93, just across from the Snack Bar. Always teaching and doing the things he loves best…

About the author

Karla Davis - Karla Davis is a southern Idaho native, who spent her childhood enjoying all the small-town charm that Shoshone had to offer, but always itching to get out and find her way in a bigger world. This restlessness led her to Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, where she had the opportunity to study under various authors and reaffirmed her love of writing, but couldn't help but feel claustrophobic in a world where the horizon was choked off by trees in every direction. Today, she is back just a few miles from where she began, and spends her time writing whatever strikes her fancy from short fiction, to poetry, to the occasional feature; and learning every day from the herd that's recently adopted her on a ranch where she enjoys every sunset the way it was supposed to be enjoyed: in big, desert, sky.

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