Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Climbing wall to open in fall 2009

Next fall, Whitties will lose one more excuse to avoid exercise.
The new rock climbing wall, housed in Sherwood Athletic Center, will open in the fall: just in time to strengthen students and faculty members for the new school year.

“I’ve been kind of a slug lately,” admitted geology professor Kevin Pogue, a devoted rock climber who uses climbing to stay in shape.


Courtesy of the Outdoor Program
Courtesy of the Outdoor Program


Demolition of the old rock-climbing wall, located on the south side of Sherwood Athletic Center, began in the summer of 2008.

Andy Dappen, a 1976 Whitman graduate and the first OP Coordinator, built the original rock-climbing wall: a bouldering wall: in the 1980s. The bouldering wall consisted of a hodgepodge of granite, chipped rock-climbing holds and metal bolted onto the exterior south side of Sherwood.

Once Pogue arrived in 1990, the bouldering wall developed into a vertical rock-climbing wall. (Bouldering is rock climbing without ropes). Pogue had just completed graduate school at Oregon State University, where he worked as the coordinator for the indoor climbing center for a year and spent much of his time constructing a climbing wall.

“And so when I came to Whitman and saw the traverse wall,” Pogue said, “I realized that there was a lot that could be done to upgrade it. Reflecting on the possibilities, Pogue thought to himself, “Wow, we could actually drill holes, put drop-in anchors and put climbing holds onto the wall of Sherwood – wouldn’t that be neat?”

Pogue drilled 400 to 500 holes in the wall during his first few years at Whitman, adding one or two new routes every year.

Additionally, a quarter of an old racquetball court was converted into a small indoor vertical climbing wall, but was used only by Sports Studies and Recreational Activities (SSRA) classes in inclement weather.

When Brien Sheedy became the director of the OP in 2001, he was determined to transform the rock-climbing program.

Sheedy purchased a concrete drill and worked tirelessly to improve the existing wall. He replaced 75% of the drop-in anchors on the vertical wall and installed over 3000 new holds on the bouldering wall. He also created new climbing curriculums, adapted the wall to better serve the SSRA climbing classes and added new holds to make the wall more accessible to beginners.

The new wall will consist of three parts: a vertical indoor climbing wall, an interior bouldering wall and an exterior bouldering wall.

Although students will not have access to the vertical climbing wall after hours the way they did with the old outdoor vertical climbing wall, they will be able to climb year-round, rain or shine.

“The facility that we’re going to get is going to meet the needs of all the climbing classes but also allow students to go down there and recreate pretty much whenever the facility is open,” said Sheedy.
Although the climbing wall will be open to all Whitman affiliates, rock climbing novices and aficionados alike, it is built with an underlying educational purpose.

“We specifically designed certain features into the new facility that will enable us to teach climbing better,” said Sheedy.

These features include removable belay ledges that will enable students to practice mock multi-pitch climbing or rescue systems, along with built-in cracks for teaching crack climbing.

“Brien has done a fantastic job of designing [the wall] with the program in mind for teaching climbing,” said Pogue.

The extent of the operating hours will depend on the budget, but Sheedy hopes to have the wall open for at least four hours a day during the week and two hours a day during the weekend.
The accessibility of the new wall is especially exciting for Whitman climbers, like senior Andy Erickson and junior Lilly Dethier. Both students are avid rock climbers and rock-climbing instructors for SSRA classes.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot better than the old climbing wall: for sure,” said junior Lilly Dethier.

Furthermore, both students expect that the new wall will spark students’ enthusiasm for rock climbing.

“Over the last year, the lack of the climbing wall has really hurt the climbing program. Hopefully with the new wall, [the program] will come back stronger than ever,” said Erickson.

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