In Depth: WesClimb

This is another installment in our series of interviews with student groups at Wesleyan.

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For this interview, I sat down with Axel Schlossberg ’15 of WesClimb to talk about the group today, its history, and what climbing competitions actually entail.

What types of climbing does WesClimb do?

There are three main types of climbing. One is called top-roping. Top-roping is where you are climbing and someone on the ground is belaying you. In top-roping, you have the security of the harness and rope, which is attached to the top of the wall. The second type is called bouldering. This is usually short climbing without a rope, and you usually go up around 12-15 feet. Bouldering emphasizes power  rather than stamina, and tends to be harder. But at the same time, you do your own thing; you can mark your own pace. The third type of climbing is called lead climbing, which is height climbing similar to top-roping, but you don’t have the security of the rope coming from the top; you are actually carrying the rope with you. As you go up, you attach it to clips on the wall. If you fall, you fall only as far as the last clip you’ve reached.

Most of the people on WesClimb primarily do bouldering, but we have about five or six people who do top-roping. 

When was the group founded?

We’re not entirely sure when it was first founded; someone created it a few years ago, but then it was sort of abandoned. There were a bunch of climbers who were seniors – most of them have since graduated – who tried to create a group to unify the climbers and strengthen the climbing culture on campus, but it sort of failed. I think what really helped us as we were getting the group going again is that we have arranged deals with a climbing gym in Wallingford named PrimeClimb.

IMG_0273Why do you go to Wallingford to climb? 

Well, if you’ve been in Freeman, you’ll know there’s a climbing wall in there. This wall, however, is only good for top-roping. Wesleyan offers a quarter-credit class in climbing that’s really fun and great for basics, but the wall at Freeman is limited for anything beyond that. So instead, we go two or three times a week to PrimeClimb, which is about 20 minutes away. Usually, we spend 2-3 hours there.

What deals have you made with them?

WesClimb can get SBC money to subsidize individual memberships. We also just made a deal with PrimeClimb that anyone from Wesleyan who comes to climb for the first time gets to climb for free. Any other Wesleyan students can pay $10 instead of $15 for a day pass if they sign up through WesClimb.

How many people are on WesClimb?

We have about 32 regular climbers, and there are probably about another 15 who climb occasionally. But also, as of a few weeks ago, we are competing against other schools, and are officially a Wesleyan team! There are probably 6-7 of us who compete.

Where do you compete?

We are part of the Climbing Collegiate Series (CCS). Our first date was Saturday, February 1; we went to New Jersey. Wesleyan is hosting the second date at PrimeClimb on February 15. The third date will be in Massachusetts on March 2. We also competed a few weeks ago in the annual Power Struggle, a competition hosted by PrimeClimb. But last weekend was our first time competing as a Wesleyan team. We compete against a number of schools including West Point, University of Connecticut, NYU, and Quinnipiac.

IMG_0276What does a competition entail?

The CCS involves a mix of top-roping and bouldering. Your team’s 5 best scores on both areas determine your final score. Different walls have different degrees of difficulty, which have different scores that are assigned by the gym. For example, a wall with a difficulty rank of V3 may have a score range of 350-390; it’s up to the gym. The best final scores in both areas determine which teams wins the competition.

There are two types of competitions. One is blind, where they keep the competitors in a separate room so that none of the people who are competing can how their competitors scale the wall. The other one is an open competition, which is the way the CCS does it, where you are all in the same room and watch each other climb. The open competition is a much nicer environment because you can see the other climbers, and people cheer you on – even if they’re your rivals.  It’s a very laid back, chill environment.

Anything else you’d like to add about WesClimb?

Connecticut has a lot of outdoor climbing – mostly bouldering. So sometimes we go climb outside too. Also, one of the big appeals of climbing that it gives you a chance to get off campus. It’s really nice to see other people and not be on the same streets all the time.

We meet regularly on Sundays. Anyone who wants to climb is more than welcome to come! We encourage people to come and climb with us whenever they want, however frequently they want.

If you are interested in joining WesClimb, email Axel at aschlossberg[at]wesleyan[dot]edu.