Climb On!

Sunday, May 20, 2018 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20; Photo by Dan Norman

Outdoor rock climbing is perhaps one of the greatest examples of grit and joy that exists, and the students involved in Outdoor Pursuits had the opportunity to experience this on Saturday, May 12th. We travelled to an extraordinary and beautiful climbing bluff in Nanaimo, and were, as Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18 put it, granted the “opportunity to apply the skills we learn in the gym to a new environment, and navigate the unique challenges of climbing on natural rocks”. 

Departing just after lunch, we soon reached a dirt, pot-hole rutted road. Shortly after, we arrived at the small parking lot nestled amidst cedars and firs. While enjoying bright rays of afternoon sunshine, and the music of the Nanaimo River and chirping birds in the background, we disembarked the bus, and divided up gear to carry on our backs to the bluff. When dinners, snacks, ropes, climbing shoes, harnesses, helmets, belay devices and carabiners were packed, we set off. After a short while scrambling over moss-covered boulders, we reached our destination, and quickly began setting. As the name ‘Dark Side’ suggests, these cliffs were shaded, providing a welcome break from the sunny warmth. 

As soon as the first route was set, we were tying knots and pulling on climbing shoes, eager to begin. The afternoon flew past, while each student challenged themselves. Between climbs, we ate dinner and enjoyed our beautiful surroundings and great company. We set seven routes in total: two 5.8s, three 5.9s, a 5.10, and even a 5.11 for experienced climbers seeking out a challenge. The group ranged from climbers who had never experienced outdoor climbing to ODP veterans accustomed to scaling the cliffs, and there was plenty for everyone to enjoy! 

I think that most of the group would agree that there is nothing quite like outdoor rock climbing. It takes incredible trust to put all of your weight on a tiny splinter of rock, and monumental grit to keep climbing when your arms are shaking, your muscles screaming, and your fingers bleeding from the sharp rocks. But when you reach the top, yell “Take” to your belayer, and sit back in your harness to take in the stunning view, knowing that you got yourself here, it is all worth it. 

Exhausted, scraped, sweaty, and satisfied, we returned to the bus after approximately 4 and ½ hours, smiles on all of our faces. Thank you so much to Ms Bell, Ms Murray, Ms Olszewski, and Mr Norman for organizing this amazing afternoon! 

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20  

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