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Taking the Lead Into College

Here at the Honors College, we always encourage students to push the limits of what they know and follow whatever path they choose. I did that, right up until it meant falling 20 feet through the air. 

Then I did it again, and again, and again, because it’s really, really fun.

This looks impractical, I know, but it’s a surprisingly useful position.

I’ve always had an appreciation for climbing — who wouldn’t? Seeing people leap and swing onto razor-thin edges, making their way up seemingly sheer rock faces — it’s something that always captivated me. Even just seeing the older kids at camp go all the way up the wall while I got stuck just off the ground made me want to try and get better. When I got to Oregon State and realized that we had a climbing club, I jumped right in.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I joined the Indoor Rock Climbing Club. Climbing, like any sport, requires practice. In the club, I found a community that would teach me everything I needed to know, give me a venue to get the practice I needed in order to improve, and have a blast while doing it. 

I spent Monday and Thursday evenings of my first fall term climbing and falling — mostly falling — and learned a few of the essentials along the way:

  • Climbing shoes really do help you stay on the wall more than any other kind of athletic shoe.
  • Safety checks are crucial. Duh.
  • Bouldering alone is fun, but projecting with friends is much better.

Christmas came and passed, and with winter term came comp season! NC3 Comps (short for NW Collegiate Climbing Circuit competitions) happen in late winter and early spring — they bring together climbers from colleges across the Northwest to battle it out for school pride and bragging rights. While I certainly didn’t win any comps, I found that everyone I met shared the same passion for climbing that I had grown and fostered. Even when I was down on myself because of how I climbed that day, the enthusiasm and energy all around comps was infectious and helped to reinvigorate me for the (often long) drive home.

That sense of community — combined with my own continuing interest in improving my climbing skills — has led me to take several classes on climbing here at OSU, with each class giving me new techniques and abilities to be the best ambassador I can be for the climbing community. I even stretched my comfort zone and took a lead climbing class; a discipline where the rope goes down from your harness, rather than up, and you clip into protection as you make your way up the wall. The falls are much bigger than most people realize, but overcoming that initial fear — like I was able to with those 20-foot falls from earlier — is a huge accomplishment for any climber.

Climbing will always be one of the most defining features of my college career, and I’m glad to have found the community here to share it with. While it may have been the sport itself that got me to start, it’s the people that keep me excited for those weekday nights in McAlexander.

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