Here's a part of Oberlin you may not know about: The rock climbers. That's right, you heard me. Even in this glaciated part of the world that provides very little in the form of the vertical, and even at a liberal arts school full of musicians and hipsters and poets, you can still find a community of people who are, to put it mildly, badass at climbing.
I work at the Oberlin rock wall, which is a tiny (but awesome) spot in the front gym. Surrounded by 2-story-high windows, this climbing spot allows you to wave to your friends as they pass the gym outside, or yell at them from 24 feet high as they enter the lobby. Best of all, you can play whatever music you want, as loud as you want. Dubstep! Oldies! Top 40! Really bad hip-hop! (Savage, anyone?) All are acceptable.
Rock climbing has been a part of my life ever since I was a kid. I was super scrawny and awkward growing up, and horrible at normal kid sports like kickball, always chosen last for a team. But amidst all the athletic things I couldn't do, rock climbing was easy. I was never afraid of heights. I loved the feeling of pushing myself higher and higher. While I couldn't kick a ball to save my life, I could be 70 feet off the ground and feel pretty strong.
A photo of me climbing at Cathedral Rock in New Zealand! You can't really tell but this route was 100 feet high. So fun!! Photo cred to Bruce Grieve.
I always loved climbing, but I didn't really get into it until I came to Oberlin. I finally got into the rock climbing ExCo my junior year first semester, and from there it's been history. I got certified to be an instructor at the wall, and then went to New Zealand for a semester, where I joined the rock climbing club, learned how to boulder and lead climb, and went climbing at places called Castle Hill and the Golden Bay (places like that are named after magical things FOR A REASON. So. Freakin'. Beautiful). Next semester, I'll be joining Oberlin's first-ever rock climbing team - we'll train a few times a week and compete at bouldering competitions, travel to the Red River Gorge for spring break, and probably jam to a lot of Skrillex and DeadMau5 and Usher. I'm so pumped.
Photos from the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, where I took a weekend trip last semester with my friends, including Phil (top and bottom photos). When my friend and I couldn't lead one of the climbs, he did it barefoot. Ridiculous human. p.s. Some of these photos are of people I don't know - I'm pretty shameless when it comes to photographing randos!
As much as I love climbing and jamming to loud music, my favorite part of working at the wall is the people. All the climbers at Oberlin are such characters, and some of the most down-to-Earth people I've met while in college. I think rock climbing naturally draws in determined, hard-working types; the people who won't give up, and love to push themselves beyond their limit. One of my good friends in New Zealand, Adam Krauland, used to tell me that "We don't have limits. We have plateaus." A lot of climbers live with this philosophy. Even if I don't know how true it is for the physical sense - I do think my body has limits, for sure! - I like to think of it as true in a more general sense. People limit themselves in so many ways - in their jobs, relationships, physical and mental health - and why? We're each born with enormous potential, and the only way to fulfill it is if we know there is enormous space to keep going. The determination rock climbers have to go higher and harder is the same determination we should each resolve in our lives: see that there is room to grow, and use challenges to be better, stronger, and more resilient.
That said, we should also use rock climbing to have a ton of fun and goof off. As with anything in life, don't take yourself too seriously! Just look at these guys. These are my co-workers, my workout buddies, and some of my greatest friends here. So while Oberlin may not be known for its climbing, I think there's a fantastic pocket of it to be discovered.