Some students at Westminster College said Bishop’s Wall, located in the Health, Wellness and Athletics Center, can be an intimidating place to begin climbing.
Newcomers said the wall is often full of better climbers and groups of people who already know each other. And when people aren't climbing, they’re situated on one bench facing the wall — watching whoever is climbing at the time.
“My biggest fear with trying climbing is that I won’t be good enough,” said Maddy Dobkin, a senior public health major. “I’m always worried that there will be a pro there and I’ll feel insecure about starting.”
On any given night, Bishop’s Wall may be filled with a group of people cheering each other up new routes. Other nights, there’s a mix of everyone, chatting at the bottom and giving tips and encouragement where it's needed.
The climbing culture at Westminster varies in levels of experience — both beginners and more experienced climbers who have been participating in the sport for years.
“It can be an intimidating place just because it’s open, and if you're not overly confident in your skill, then you don’t necessarily wanna portray that in front of others,” said Katie Saad, an undeclared sophomore. “As soon as you realize that it is a welcoming environment, then you can get past that intimidation.”
Stephanie Gardiner, a senior chemistry major, said breaking into the climbing culture was scary at first, but she felt more comfortable after she’d done it for a while.
“There can feel like there's a climbing clique, and that can feel scary to break your way in,” she said.
The divide between experience levels can be intimidating, but Alex Arnis, a senior economics major, said it ultimately makes no difference.
“You can climb alongside someone that's been climbing for 10 years and is basically a pro level and you can have just as fun of a time climbing with them [as climbing alongside a beginner],” he said.
Anna Robert, a junior and assistant manager at Bishop’s Wall, said she has noticed a difference between groups of male and female climbers.
“When I watch people at the wall, if it's all girls they are all over everything — they are stoked to be there,” she said. “If there is a large number of boys, they are muscling up everything and the girls tend to seem a little more shy until it reaches a point where the boys start helping the girls.”
Despite the differences in gender norms and skill levels, several climbers said the culture is evolving. Ultimately, though, they said it is a product of Westminster’s culture.
“I feel like Westminster's climbing culture has to do with the type of student body,” Dobkin said. “Friends encourage each other to go climbing. It’s very group oriented.”
Many climbers agreed that they overcame their anxieties after climbing at Bishop’s Wall for a while.
“I think the social aspect was scarier than the climbing,” said Kami Abbi-Nader, a senior nursing major, about her first time climbing at Bishop’s climbing wall.