Rock Climbing Enjoys Rising Popularity

Double back your harness, tie a double figure-8 knot, squeeze into those shoes two sizes too small for you, chalk up, and go. For those of us participating in the Winter Search and Rescue (S&R) program at Andover focusing solely on indoor rock climbing, this is part of our routine each day. The two groups, Advanced and Intermediate, practice on alternating days three times a week, highlighted by a four-hour practice on Wednesdays at a local climbing gym. On weekends, we usually compete with other prep school climbing teams, such as Exeter, St. Paul’s, Milton, and Nobles. Our Advanced team climbs an average of 5.10c and a V4. But what does that even mean? To begin with, there are two major types of indoor climbing: top rope (or lead) and boulder. Top roping and leading are climbing with a harness, rope, and belayer, and are usually above 20 feet. Bouldering, on the other hand, is a style of free climbing below 20 feet. All routes are rated based on difficulty, top rope ranging from 5.5 to 5.15 (the Yosemite Decimal System), and boulders ranging from V0 to V16 (the Hueco Scale). Our climbing team participated in three competitions this season, and has continuously placed in all of them. On Feburary 7th, we participated in a boulder competition. In the Recreational division, Brandon Lam ’11 took third place, Joe Liotta ’10 second and Katy Svec first. C.J. Queenan ’09 took first place in Intermediate. I know what comes to mind when you think of rock climbing. Indoor rock climbing is frequently associated with birthday parties and other frivolous activities, but in reality, it is an extremely vigorous and demanding sport. Unlike numerous other sports, climbing requires you to use every muscle of your body almost constantly. Not only that, footwork, balance, dynamic power and determination are all necessary assets in order to complete a route successfully. Recently, the PA Winter S&R program has not only increased in popularity (more than 40 students tried out), but also in ability. Looking back on my past three climbing seasons at PA, I find my teammates and me climbing harder and pushing our limits further every year. Personally, I came to Andover struggling with 5.10s and V3s, and now I can comfortably climb 5.10c’s and V4s (if you still don’t understand the numbers, just trust me—it’s improvement). I have been climbing for 6 years, and my calluses are here to stay. I was genuinely impressed with PA’s climbing program and the on-campus climbing wall (yes, we DO have a climbing wall), and I truly enjoyed the company of my fellow teammates. Our Winter S&R climbing team is quite a diverse group. Veterans include Katy “the Responsible One” Svec ‘10, Adam “Brass Fingers” Tohn ‘10, C.J. “Bigger Muscles than You” Queenan ‘09, and Max “Still Probably Bigger Muscles than You” Queenan ’11. In general, the PA Winter S&R Program is a vigorous sport that requires devotion and enthusiasm. Both qualities can be found in the members of this year’s S&R climbing team, who climb until their hands are raw and feet are numb, and enjoy it. Maybe next year, you will be masochistic enough to rock on with us.