The Mountaineering Club

Most of them had never climbed before, the movements were unfamiliar. I stood next to the ice pillar trying to explain how to properly swing the ice tools to get the picks to stick firmly and how to position their feet before kicking the front points of crampons into the ice. We were standing in a quarry near the Upper Valley Humane Society and club members were attempting to climb a 30-foot pillar of vertical ice.

The idea to start the mountaineering club had been formed a few months earlier. My girlfriend and I were camping on top of a mountain in Killington, VT called Deers Leap. It was mid-January and one of the coldest nights that I had ever been in the mountains. I dug a spot in the snow for the tent and we pitched it 3 feet from the edge of a 70-foot drop. It took me a long time to set up the tent because the wind was blowing so hard. We finally crawled inside and unsuccessfully tried to get warm by crawling into our sleeping bags. The stove wouldn’t start so we didn’t have anything to eat. I couldn’t have slept for more than an hour that night because of the cold and the wind ripping loudly at the tent, threatening to throw it over the edge. The next morning we crawled shivering out of the tent, and on our way back down the mountain we almost forgot how tough the night was. I talked with my girlfriend about how awesome it was to be in the mountains and how others should experience it too. As we were hiking out, she suggested to me that we start a club through the school and take people out climbing.

Over the next month I started the club and found an advisor. I didn’t get funding because of the legal risks associated with climbing. With such a dangerous activity, the school said that if they were to buy a rope, for example, and if a member of the club were to get hurt using that rope, the school would be liable. Fortunately, I had enough gear that I was able to organize the first outing and so a few weeks later, I took a small group of students to a quarry to go ice climbing. First, I climbed to the top and set up the rope, then everyone took turns tying in and attempting to climb the pillar of ice. Even though most were unsuccessful they definitely seemed interested, so I viewed the first outing as a success. Afterwards, once it warmed up outside, we went rock climbing in Killington. This time, almost everyone got to the top and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience. 

As I built my own experience as a climber and learned more skills I felt able to teach the members of the club even more. I like taking people out climbing, but my goal is more than that: I want to get them interested and knowledgeable enough to continue climbing on their own. During the club fair this year the number of members in our club skyrocketed. I had put together a slideshow with pictures of the climbs that I have done, and it seemed to interest people; by the end of the day we had about 40 sign up for the club. Most had never climbed in their life. I took a group of them rock climbing not long after. Everyone who came along that day climbed, and many people pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. One of the members, Hazel Tompkins (9th grade), said she had joined because her dad had gotten her into climbing as a kid and it felt good to be able to give people an opportunity to climb again safely outdoors.

I am very happy with the way the club is going. I think the best part of it is getting people interested in a new activity while also pushing their physical and mental limits.

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