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Club introduces SNC Students to Rock Climbing

Photo Credit Ryland West

Photo Credit Ryland West

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My fingers shivered from an uneasy tension as I eased into a pair of borrowed rock climbing shoes. My climbing experience extended to a handful of trips to the gym back in my junior year of high school. I was uneducated on the lingo, edict, and it didn’t help that I share the same muscle complexion as a string bean.

Drake Fiske, president of Sierra Nevada College’s climbing club, invited me to come climbing at the gym, with a promise to show me the ropes. As I watched the group of six students contort their bodies to accomplish different routes, I twisted at my shirt, a nervous tick I developed in the third grade.

They were joking and coaching one another in their own language of heel hooks and crimps. Fiske pointed to one of the routes and said I should try it because it was, “really easy and a good introduction.” Despite approaching the easiest route in the gym, my palms were still sweating. I didn’t want all these people to see how athletically foolish and awkward I am. As I took position on the wall, everyone was lending tips and coaching me through the movements. Within the first few moves the timid anxiety of trying something new dissipated. I felt like a part of their climbing club.

The SNC climbing club is composed of eight students that get together every week to rock climb, push each other to improve, and share their love of the sport. Fiske and his friends founded the club to share their passion. They climb every week and decided it would be fun to organize a club to expand their group and offer a place for other SNC students to learn or find climbing partners.

Member Maea Winstrom finds the club supportive and open to accommodating any skill level.
“If you are not someone who is experienced in climbing, skiing, or any of these outdoor activities that are super popular here you tend to kind of just, speaking from my own experience, shy away from trying a lot of these new things.” She said. The club’s mission is to get students outside. “By getting outside and pushing myself to climb I really got to experience the area and it feels a lot more like home.”

In the past, SNC has had a climbing club that, according to Fisk, fizzled due to snow and a dwindling interest. Fiske has since resurrected it with new intentions.

“To my understanding, it used to be more of a team,” Fiske said. “There was a lot of competition climbing in gyms. Our climbing club is more focused on the outdoor aspect of it. We like getting outside and doing real rock climbing and learning the skills.”

Fiske climbed competitively in high school but says he doesn’t see it as a competitive sport. He enjoys the personal aspect of climbing and views it as a positive tool to reach individual goals and generate personal accomplishments. He believes climbing outdoors is the purest rock climbing experience.

“Climbing on real rock with the sun on you and you are picking your own way and not following a color is more creative and individualistic,” Fiske said. In the gym, climbing routes are marked by colored strips of tape placed next to designated holds.

During the winter the club meets indoors at High Altitude Gym every Thursday. As spring approaches Fiske says they have trips planned to climb 90 Foot Wall, Ball Buster, Donner Summit, Bishop, and Red Rock. He hopes the group can plan some extended overnight trips to round out the outdoor experience.

Fiske says the club covers a variety of routes and encourages everyone to join. “We’ve taught a lot of people how to belay,” he said. Belaying is a method whereby a climbing partner adjusts rope length for a climber to ensure their safety in case of a fall. “It’s not super hard and you can get the hang of it quickly.

“We do easy, to moderate and more difficult routes. Each wall has a wide variety of difficulties”
Students are welcome to join the group at High Altitude on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Fiske or Dean of Students Will Hoida.

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Club introduces SNC Students to Rock Climbing