Learning the Ropes of Top Rope Climbing

Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - By: Benjamin H, Rogers ‘19

Wait, the new Foote Centre has a what?!? 

Yes, it’s true, the newly completed athletic centre has a full climbing gym, with top rope climbs, bouldering routes, and a speed climbing wall (which meets competition regulations). This gym is open to students at least twice a week, and has become a full blown sport this term partially thanks to its growing popularity. Sport climbing is offered to both beginners and experienced climbers. 

As word spread through the school of the incredible experiences to be had on the wall, the gym got more and more crowded, and more supervision was required. 

Enter Jacob Norman, Whittall ‘16 and Ms Murray, the new head coach of climbing. Mr. Norman - the younger - a new RFA in Privett House, knows the school well from his time here as a student. Additionally, he is a truly dynamic climber, being the first member of the school to complete the hardest climb in the gym - a 5.12 for those who know climbing difficulty ratings - with no falls. With these extra sets of chalky hands on deck, the gym is up and running.

Ms Murray, the Head Coach, when talking about her excitement for the climbing gym, said that “Mr Dan Norman and Mrs Olszewski have had a vision for the last ten years of having a climbing gym for students, and it’s really cool that their dream has been realized. There are a whole lot of students and staff who are excited to take part in it.” Ms. Murray’s enthusiasm in the gym is contagious, infecting both students and staff as they ascend. 

By just sitting in the gym and watching, one can observe many different styles of climbing. Some of the boys try to brute force each climb, practically just doing repeated chin-ups, hurling themselves up the wall. The smarter climbers’ different movements are described by Quin N, Alex ‘20, as both “fluid movement and quick high intensity movement...mak[ing] climbing such an interesting sport”. This results in climbers reaching, grabbing, and pulling on holds in a symphony of movements. In the photo, Nathan L, Whittall ‘20 performs a dynamic move, jumping for a far away hold. 

The gym isn’t only a training ground for students who want to go climb El Capitan. The wall is also open to beginners who want to learn the basics of how to climb safely. Beginning climber Suzanna G, Allard ‘20 described her experience learning the ropes as “super fun because now that we can belay and climb with each other, I think we will all become stronger and it’ll make the sport more fun.”

Benjamin H, Rogers ‘19

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