Students take on the wall at Learn to Rock Climb Day

Alexa Hudson, trip leader and an adjunct professor at Westminster, shows the climbers bouldering techniques. Bouldering doesn’t require a top-rope and allows climbers to practice the hardest parts of climbs without climbing the entire route. Photos by Rachel Robertson

Alexa Hudson, trip leader and an adjunct professor at Westminster, shows the climbers bouldering techniques. Bouldering doesn’t require a top-rope and allows climbers to practice the hardest parts of climbs without climbing the entire route. Photos by Rachel Robertson

For many novice climbers, the thought of rock climbing conjures up images of quivering arms, death-defying heights and intimidating gear—fears the Outdoor Recreation Program is working to help new climbers overcome.

In early October, the outdoor program hosted its annual Learn to Rock Climb Day dedicated to helping new climbers learn the basics of climbing. Nine people showed up ready to take on the wall.

Alexa Hudson, the trip leader and adjunct faculty at Westminster, said she was excited to help participants overcome the obstacles that stop them from taking up the sport.

“So many things keep people from climbing,” Hudson said. “Fear, the perception that they don’t have enough arm strength, technical skills, accessibility—it’s definitely a gear-intensive sport, and there’s a lot of intimidation around gear and how to use it.”

Student-instructor Zoey Gray models how to belay for participants. Students gathered to learn the basics and techniques of rock climbing.

Student-instructor Zoey Gray models how to belay for participants. Students gathered to learn the basics and techniques of rock climbing.

Hudson has been climbing seriously for nine years and teaches many novice and advanced climbing courses in addition to working with the outdoor program. She said she is firmly embedded in the climbing community and passionate about the sport.

“I love the problem-solving nature of climbing; it’s very intellectually captivating,” Hudson said. “It has also taught me a lot about life, especially around fear and taking risks. Climbing mitigates anxiety and teaches you how to breathe through it.”

Although inclement weather forced the climbing indoors, participants still left the day feeling more equipped for future climbing.

“We stayed inside and worked more on technique, learning to use our bodies to our advantage when climbing,” said Lindsay Hall, junior psychology major. "I loved learning techniques with bouldering. It helps me save a lot of energy, because I tend to rely on my arm-strength too much and wear myself out way too early in the climb.”

The rock climbing community is alive and well on the Westminster campus, according to student climbers and members of the outdoor program.

“There’s definitely a culture of climbing at Westminster,” said Hudson, an adjunct climbing professor at Westminster. “I’ve met students who are firmly in the climbing community through my work teaching advanced climbing classes and working with the outdoor program.”

Even some new climbers soon find themselves in love with the sport.

“I love the adrenaline you get throughout the climb,” said Hall, an intermediate climber. “It’s also an amazing workout that you just don’t get bored of, and the people associated with climbing are great—they’re generally laid back and friendly.”

Many members of the outdoor program and climbers alike enjoy sharing their love of climbing with new climbers, bringing them into the climbing community through trips, classes and open climbing at Bishop's Wall.

“I feel passionate about helping people experience the outdoors in a different way through climbing,” Hudson said. “Climbing is like a conduit for learning about people.”

Students can get involved in Westminster’s climbing community by participating in climbing trips, attending open climbing hours at Bishop’s Wall and registering for climbing courses. Learn more at westminstercollege.edu/outdoorrec.