Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman Climber Granted Opportunity to Pursue Dreams

Senior Matthew Morriss has done things in the past six months most Whitman students only dream of. Not only is he spending time climbing and skiing in some of the most remote and beautiful areas of the region, but he isn’t paying to do it, either.

By receiving grants from multiple outdoors organizations, Morriss has been able to take up climbing and skiing projects by exploring neighboring wilderness and getting published along the way. Morriss’s grant-funded “work” is a culmination of interests he developed at Whitman, but taken to larger applications outside of the realm of school.

Matthew Morris.  Photos contributed by Morriss.
Matthew Morris on one of his recent climbing expeditions. Photos contributed by Morriss.  See the slideshow below for more.

“The last three years I have been a climbing instructor and I took Advanced Climbing with Brian Sheedy. The course focused on traditional climbing, through which I got really interested in climbing the mountains,” said Morriss.

Morriss is a geology major who sees the connection between climbing and his academic interests as intuitive.

“Obviously, it is awesome to be up on a granite wall and know what you are looking at, but I think that geology and climbing just attract similarly motivated students with interests outside of the classroom,” said Morriss.

For Morriss, who plans to attend graduate school in geology, the climbing trips are also helping him bolster his résumé. Morriss has mapped routes and been published in a well-known climbing magazine, The American Alpine Journal.

The American Alpine Club was the funder of Morriss’s first grant, a $400 Live Your Dream Grant he used to climb and document previously undocumented areas of Oregon. Morriss went with other Whitman students to the Wallowa and Elkhorn Mountains.

“I went on three different trips and only one of them took me to a route that looked like it was a new route, but that was probably the pinnacle of my climbing career,” said Morriss.

Morriss’s high motivation has driven him to unique climbing experiences few Whitman students share, despite a flourishing climbing community on campus.

“The Whitman climbing community is really active, but usually climbs smaller cliffs nearby. There is a core group of guys interested in climbing mountains,” said Morriss.

Morriss’s newest project is being funded by a Winter Adventure Grant through an organization called Summit Sealants. The thousand-dollar grant is allowing him and Andrew Spickert to take several trips to ski and document remote mountains.

“We get to go to really remote, really beautiful places and document our experiences skiing where people may have never skied before,” said Morriss.

Just last weekend, Morriss spent a couple of days in the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho, which Morriss called the “crown jewel” of the grant application.

“[The range] is extremely isolated and has seen no reported winter ascents of any of the majors peaks in the range. Andrew and I summited something called Heavens Gate (8,421 feet high) and skied from the summit,” said Morriss.

Morriss is still amazed to have been granted the opportunity to pursue his interests, but believes everyone deserves the chance to chase their dreams.

“I hope people understand the opportunities at Whitman. I would easily say coming to Whitman is the best decision I have made in my life. The recreations of climbing and skiing are things I didn’t have coming into Whitman, but that I will leave with. I am doing stuff that is really fun and cool, but I hope that people realize there are opportunities everywhere. All you have to do is look.”


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