Club provides greater opportunities for climbers

Pamela London

Ahren Stroming '14, Isabel Hong '11 and Chelsea Cordell '14 take advantage of Whitman's exceptional climbing center, practicing belaying technique in a beginning climbing class. Credit: Marin Axtell

For over a decade, Whitman climbing enthusiasts have pursued their passion by participating in the mountaineering club. Now, the club has undergone a transformation into the Whitman Rock Climbing Club and upped the ante.

The Rock Climbing Club officially began under its new name at the beginning of the fall 2010 semester. Outdoor Program (OP) Director Brien Sheedy leads the group, which includes climbers of all skill levels. During the summer, Sheedy was approached by seniors Nat Clark and Aidan Beers about starting a climbing club at Whitman.

“I suggested that we change mountaineering club into more of a climbing club,” said Sheedy.

Instead of focusing solely on mountaineering technique and practice, the climbing club has broadened its base, which can be broken down into three elements: mountaineering, competitions and climbing trips. The climbing trips exist separate from the OP and don’t have official trip leaders. In addition, there are no pre-requisites to go on the trips.

“The idea is to offer trips beyond the level offered by the OP,” said Lilly Dethier ’10.

Dethier worked for the OP as a first-year, and was hired as the climbing wall manager following her graduation from Whitman.

Instead of trip leaders organizing specific routes that everyone has to follow, climbers have more freedom to choose where they want to go. This allows the climbers to have a more individualized and, ultimately, enjoyable experience.

“The trips are more personal,” said sophomore Charlotte Hill.

Competitions add yet another dimension to the club which the mountaineering club lacked. Colleges and universities around the Northwest host these competitions, which range in skill level from beginner to open and include male and female categories.

“[Competitions] are pretty laid back,” said Hill. “It’s a pretty casual atmosphere. Anyone can compete because there are different levels.”

Along with several other members of the club, Hill went to the Eastern Washington University climbing competition held on Jan. 29. The EWU competition was the second of eight competitions available for the Whitman climbers to participate in

For any and all interested Whitman students, the Rock Climbing Club is very easy to join. The club’s listserv keeps members up to date on scheduling, competitions and climbing times.

“Anyone can come during open hours [at the climbing center],” said Dethier. “You can take clinics to get the technical skills to go on certain trips.”

Students have several options if they have interest in learning about climbing or improving their skills. There are climbing classes available each semester, including beginner, intermediate and instructor courses, as well as clinics and general wall use. The wall is also available for sports teams, clubs and residence hall sections to sign up for team building activities or simply as something fun to do together

The climbing wall is one of the more popular spots on campus, and averages about 80 visits per day during the week.

“Once people get down here, they realize that there are actually a lot of people in here,” said Sheedy.

The climbing club will participate in competitions periodically for the next two months before coming home to host the Sweet Onion Crank on April 30 at the Whitman Climbing Center.