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Grand Forks couple has enjoyed rock climbing since 1970

Dexter and Betsy Perkins climb indoors to stay fit. Photo by John Brose
If you’re looking for something to do this week, Dexter and Betsy Perkins have some ideas for you and they all involve getting physically active.

 Although the couple is in their early 60s, they are not slowing down any time soon.


 At Northern Heights Rock Gym in Grand Forks, where they manage maintenance and construction, they climb an hour or more every other day.


 Dexter says they climb indoors, so they can climb outdoors. And they often do. Most recently they went on a climbing trip to Arizona.


 When asked about the dangers of rock climbing, Dexter says they don’t worry about it. They have never been seriously injured and, as experienced climbers, take all the necessary safety precautions.


 Dexter says they climb for the adventure and beautiful scenery.


 Betsy adds that, for her, it’s also the sense of accomplishment she feels after reaching the summit.


 Dexter says although he is technically stronger, Betsy is a better climber because she can balance well and finds creative paths to the top.


 When the pair climbs at Northern Heights Rock Gym, they often belay each other, meaning one stands on the ground holding tension on the rope, supporting the one climbing. When the climber reaches the top, the person belaying lowers them to the ground.


40 years together


 When Dexter belays Betsy, he says he occasionally likes to prank her by lowering her quickly then catching her close to the ground. He says she looks concerned, but he always catches her. She rolls her eyes as he recounts his antics.


 The Perkins can recount many of the climbs they’ve been on, and their home is adorned with photos of them clinging to steep cliffs over gorgeous scenery.


 Each of them readily recalls how they fell in love with climbing. For Dexter, it was a summer working and climbing with friends during high school. For Betsy, it was after she started dating Dexter in college in 1970.


 When asked how long they’ve been married, they guessed since 1976, but weren’t exactly sure. But they do remember when they met, in a pumpkin patch on Halloween.


A love of the outdoors


 It’s fitting that they met outdoors, because the outdoors is a passion they share.


 Betsy regularly goes cross-country skiing. They also hike often and commute around Grand Forks on fat bikes.


 Fat bikes have larger wheels and tires than regular bikes and allow for better balance and easier riding in ice and snow.


 Dexter says their biking grew out of their desire to save energy. They regularly ride bikes in the summer and tried to continue into the winter, but snow and ice made that dangerous. That’s when they discovered fat bikes. Dexter says the larger tires make it feel more like a car. “Sometimes when I hop on it, I reach for the seatbelt,” he jokes. “I don’t,” she adds with a smile. “He’s getting old.”


 Betsy says it’s quite a process to dress for biking in the cold. On top of the coat, snow pants, mask, hood and hat, she and Dexter bought special mittens that attach to the handlebars of their bikes to keep their hands warm in the wind.