The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Rediscovering Climbing


Mid-way through last semester, my Sports Writing professor briefly mentioned the movie Free Solo to our class in the middle of one of his lectures. I scribbled an illegible note in the corner of my notebook reading “Free Solo, El Capitan” after his brief description of the documentary.

I then asked my girlfriend if she wanted to watch a climbing docu-film with me about someone who climbs a 3,000ft wall without ropes and she somewhat reluctantly agreed. Then came 90-something minutes of sweaty palms while watching Alex Honnold practice and attempt the route “Freerider” on El Capitan. El Cap is a beautiful rock formation in Yosemite Valley and is considered one of the best big walls to climb in the world.

The next step in my climbing progression was going down deep YouTube wormholes of Alex Honnold, people free-soloing, people sport climbing, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, and the list goes on and on. I became hooked. I watched videos on gear, the hardest climbs, climbing styles, climbing workouts, and I could not wait to get back on the wall. I kept learning more and more, all while starting to climb a bit more.

I listened to two different Alex Honnold books on audio, watched a few more climbing documentaries, and became a legit climbing fan. I speak about Jimmy Chin, Honnold, Ondra, and Tommy Caldwell like I do when I bring up Tom Brady or David Ortiz. I genuinely believe that climbers are some of the best and most underappreciated athletes in history. The physical feats that they accomplish are nothing short of breathtaking.

One of the best kept secrets at Westfield State is the Rock Climbing Club and the rock wall over at the Woodward Athletic Center. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the rock wall is free and open from 6:00-9:00 pm. I have gone all four years that I have been here, and have recreationally climbed here and there when I am home in eastern Mass for the past six years or so. Though I went a few times the semester before, my climbing documentaries, audiobooks, and YouTube videos are what got me back in the gym.

I have been climbing consistently for about three or four months now and couldn’t be happier that I got back into the sport. I have played sports all my life, done weight training, ran a half-marathon, and I’ve realized nothing is more humbling than rock climbing. Pick an elite athlete out of any sport and stick them on a rock wall and be prepared for them to struggle in one way or another.

Although anyone can walk into a climbing gym and start up a wall, it takes years of climbing experience and practice to be successful on the wall. I have been progressively getting stronger, smarter, and technically better as a climber for months, and at least two-thirds of the regulars of Westfield’s Rock Climbing Club still crush me on the wall.

In no way is that said with spite or envy, because I learn things from just about everyone there each time I climb. There are a lot of friendly faces that have a lot of knowledge and experience to share, and I am very grateful for that. They have all helped me in one way or another while I have been discovering a new passion for rock climbing.

If you are looking for a fun outing with friends or a different date night than the usual, think about going to a rock gym. You will get one of the best upper body workouts possible all while having fun and learning something new. When you climb, you immediately realize that you have never done a legit finger or forearm workout in your life. That’s right, start doing your individual finger strengthening exercises, or you won’t be able to send a text the next day after climbing.

I am the new and proud owner of my first ever pair of climbing shoes, which is a necessary financial investment, and also a worthwhile one. I also purchased a cheap chalk bag and some hand exercises off of Amazon, but I haven’t had to spend too much money to pick up this new hobby. I have had so much fun doing it, made great friends through it, and would genuinely recommend climbing to anyone looking to challenge themselves a bit.

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