The rock wall in the Auburn Recreation and Wellness Center stands lofty and imposing, daring all who gaze upon it to brave its heights. A coalition of adventurers stands ready. They are the Auburn Climbing Club.
Despite its intimidating appearance, though, climbing as a sport is accessible to beginners.
Chaz Ganey, president of the Auburn Climbing Club and fifth-year senior in chemical engineering, aims to make climbing seem approachable to all, which will debut as an Olympic event in 2020.
“Climbing can seem very scary at first, and it can get intimidating going to the climbing wall and seeing people do things that look impossible, but I guarantee you will struggle to find a more welcoming and encouraging community than the climbing community,” Ganey said.
On invitation from a friend, Ganey learned to climb his freshman year at the Rec’s rock wall and never looked back. For people who are new to climbing and interested in trying it out, Ganey recommended going to the Rec and asking the staff, who are happy to help out new climbers.
“Being a part of this club has really given me a chance to push myself physically and to see that where we think our limits are barely scratch the surface if you’re willing to push through that first wave of self-doubt,” Ganey said.
Climbing, however, does come with its downfalls. A common accident for climbers are big falls known as “whippers,” which are especially bad if the person flips upside down.
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“I’ve taken a few pretty big whippers myself, falling 30-ish feet before being caught by the rope. But the biggest whipper I’ve seen was some guy I didn’t know out at a crag (outdoor-climbing area) fell unexpectedly and fell roughly 50 feet and flipped upside down,” Ganey said. “Luckily, he was right above a big cave, so there was nothing for him to hit when he swung back in toward the wall, but needless to say that had everyone’s adrenaline pumping.”
Ganey has been with the Climbing Club since it was founded in 2016, hearing about the idea because he spent so much time at the climbing wall as well as working for Auburn Outdoors.
The club was especially of interest to him because he had stopped playing more traditional sports after high school.
“The sport of climbing, like a lot of other sports, is more about testing yourself than beating someone else,” Ganey said. “Everyone has their own thing they take from climbing, but for me, climbing allows me to test myself and to have a measure by which I can track improvement and stay active.”
The climbing team competes in around eight Southeastern competitions each year, mostly at other universities.
Auburn Outdoors hosts one of these, giving students the chance to easily check out the sport.
“Competition season is my favorite time of the year because every weekend is something new,” Ganey said. “You get to see and hang out with friends you’ve made from other schools that compete in the same circuits, and every gym and the particular routes up for that competition is different, so you never know what is going to happen.”
While competing is a big part of the club, Ganey’s favorite part of the club are his fellow climbers.
“These are some of the goofiest, funniest and most genuinely accepting people I have ever known,” Ganey said. “Everyone looks out for everyone else, cheering them up if they’ve had a rough day or encouraging them through whatever they’re going through be it an off day at practice or something not even related to climbing.”
He ran for president because he wanted to use his passion for the sport to help grow Auburn’s climbing community.
“When I first started climbing at Auburn, there were maybe 12–15 regular climbers and maybe 10 other people would come try it out on a daily basis,” Ganey said. “Now, there are probably 30-plus regular climbers, and it is not uncommon for the climbing wall to have 25 people climbing every night. Seeing the climbing community grow like it has in the past five years has been incredible.”
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