As a freshman I never imagined that I would spend my weeknights suspended 40 feet from the ground, kept alive by a snag of rope. What I expected was the normal barrage of college activities; nights spent composing papers and dishing out cab fare. Instead, I found the Rollins Climbing Club, which took me out of my comfort zone by presenting me with both mental and physical challenges.
The climbing journey begins at Alfond gym, where students flock to face the sport. In a sense, these students resemble a traditional sports team and banter flows smoothly as they converse about classes and pass around trail mix. At 6:45 p.m. the Club’s president, Haley Bowen ‘15, arrives in a Land Rover adorned with prayer flags and climbing stickers. Bowen has been president of the club for a year and her infectious enthusiasm for the sport keeps new climbers arriving, regardless of their prior experience. When I talked to Bowen she emphasized that the club embraces the entire student body, regardless of their experience level. This has led to the club doubling in size, as both graduate and undergraduate students develop passion for the sport.
The reasons why these students strap on harnesses vary. Some students relish the opportunity to get away from campus twice a week, while others simply enjoy interacting with the other climbers. Most of all, students enjoy the unique challenge that rock climbing presents.
The sport requires an individual find a balance between brain and brawn. The first thing new climbers learn is that they cannot simply throw themselves at the wall with hopes of ascending to the top. A climb takes planning and foresight, and many of the movements a climber makes are based on skill not strength. One of the clubs newest members, Cassandra Hoffer ‘16, expressed “I find the sport challenging in a way that is different from other competitive sports. It is as much a mental exercise as physical. It’s about trusting your body and taking risks. It is a sport that builds connected mental and physical endurance.” Many of the clubs members echo these sentiments.
Bowen says that her goals for the club are for it to remain a family instead of just a club. Each member relies on the support and aid of other members to build their skill levels. David Tran ‘15, a member returning after injury, stated, “all the members are kind and outgoing and climbing with them is always a good time.” Tran goes on to emphasize one of the club’s main strength’s—” That it’s fun to climb with people who know how to give pointers and accept advice in turn.”
The club now possess a wide array of both graduate and undergraduate students. Jon Costa, a student of Crummer, told me “At any given day in the gym, you can witness those of different political affiliations, upbringings, income levels, and styles all getting along and helping each other to achieve their goals. It is this culture of camaraderie that ultimately made me stick with it.” It is this family environment that draws student and keeps them coming.
The club is trying to plan a rock-climbing trip that will immerse students in nature and the outdoor climbing experience. The last club trip took seven individuals out to ramble the hills of Tennessee. Club leadership commented that they would like to offer students this same opportunity in coming years. If a member wants something more competitive than recreational climbing club also partakes in competitions throughout the spring semester. Cars went out last year to partake in statewide competitions hosted in Jacksonville and Melbourne. One year the team even hopped aboard a flight to Boston and competed in Nationals.
For students interested in the Rollins Climbing Club, getting involved is rather easy. Both the president and the vice president answer email inquiring about hours, fees, and climbing times on a daily basis. For simplicity’s sake, the club has two set climbing times, Wednesday and Monday at 6:45 p.m. However, if members cannot make these times it is no sweat. Weekend climbing trips occur frequently. Regardless of experience level, all students interested will be offered a ride and aid in getting set up. So what are you waiting for? Climb On Tars!
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