For most people, hanging onto a wall by only a thin rope and looking down at the ground far below sounds nothing short of terrifying. For the Rock Climbing Club at Virginia Tech, this is just another weekend.
Throughout the year, the club goes on trips to popular climbing locations in the area. Matt Londrey, a senior and the club’s president, explains that while there are several trips for the club’s more experienced climbers, a good portion are actually for new members.
“The majority of our members are beginner climbers, so we really focus on having beginner trips,” Londrey said. “We have a group of trip leaders who are experienced climbers that take out a group of six inexperienced climbers for the day. We try to make it so that all of our members can do that once.”
This year, the club has around 120 members, including officers and trip leaders, and has a large mix of different majors, ages, and skill levels. To encourage new people to join each year, the club tries to keep fees low so people won't feel pressured to remain in the group if they decide they do not like climbing.
“Our dues are only $20 for the year,” Londrey said. “We really encourage people to try it once, and if you don’t like it, then just don’t come back.”
However, when most of the members are just starting out in climbing, it is important to bring in experienced trip leaders to teach the beginners how to stay safe on the trails. Jay Shultis, a 2004 Tech graduate and a former member of the club, has recently started going on these trips again.
“I really love teaching other people how to climb and taking them out,” Shultis said. “It’s (about) enjoying the experience, being outside, and being free to try new things.”
One benefit for members of the group is the prime location. Tech is close to several locations for the different kinds of rock climbing, including belaying (with ropes) and bouldering (without ropes).
New River Gorge, a national park in West Virginia, is one of the Rock Climbing Club’s top trips. This park holds more than 70,000 acres of land on the New River and boasts a rich natural landscape, offering scenic views that draw in tourists from around the country.
While Tech students can admire the tremendous views and natural beauty, the park has more than 1,600 established climbing routes hanging over the gorge. Since the adventurous hot spot is only a few hours away from Tech, it is a clear pick for the club.
“You can easily just go for a day, where other people drive 10 or 12 hours to get there,” Londrey said. “That’s the best — just being able to go there every weekend, or to go on a Friday after class and come back for the football game on Saturday morning.”
Although many people may be scared of rock climbing, Londrey feels it can be a very rewarding experience for those willing to take the chance.
“It’s very challenging, and I think a lot of people get something out of challenging themselves,” Londrey said. “It’s something that you can overcome. At first, you may think that (climbing) is really hard, but after working at it for a bit, you figure it out."
For those who still do not feel like scaling a rock wall, though, there is another way to get involved with the club. “Reel Rock,” an annual climbing film festival sponsored by the Rock Climbing Club, will be free to the general public for the first time this year. The event will be held Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Graduate Life Center.
But for those who do join, the Rock Climbing Club presents a unique opportunity to learn a new sport, as well as a place to meet and bond with others with shared interests.
“It’s probably the best club at Tech,” Shultis said. “Everyone should try out rock climbing.”