Students Climb Their Way to the Top

Friday, August 17, 2018
Student Opportunities

Climbing Club members navigate through an intricate course of grips to successfully get to the top of bouldering walls on campus and in competitions throughout the nation.

Don’t let the “Ski Terre Haute” poster fool you, there are no rolling mountain ranges in Terre Haute, Indiana.

That’s what makes the Climbing Club’s success so remarkable.

In its three years of existence, the club has twice qualified for the USA Climbing collegiate national championships after capturing regional titles. Members have placed among the top climbers in Midwest and national competitions.

“It is fun and a great way to relieve stress from a hectic day of classes,” says junior engineering student Aidan McKnight, who placed 88th among 200 collegiate climbers in this year’s bouldering wall nationals. “I started out during my freshman year, while training for a possible American Ninja Warrior contest. Now, I love the challenge of applying your physical strength and your mind to figure out the fastest way up the wall.”

A climbing wall is an artificially built structure in an indoor setting that has grips for climbers to place their hands and feet while navigating the safest and quickest way to the top. The wall height depends on the indoor setting. (A bouldering wall in the campus’ Sports and Recreation Center is 14 feet tall, with the grips being changed routinely during each academic quarter to offer a new and exciting challenge.)

“I like figuring out the problem about which holds (grips) to use,” adds Wesley Siebenthaler, a junior computer science, software engineering and mathematics student. He placed third in the speed and bouldering competitions at this year’s Midwest regionals in Indianapolis. “It doesn’t take us long to figure out a successful pattern for each new course set up (at Rose-Hulman). Everything depends on your size, strength and agility. We attack things pretty aggressively to get to the top,” he says.

Other members of the national qualifying team are three sophomores: Anna Fusaro, a biomedical engineering student; Noah Millard, a mechanical engineering major; and Sam Ridgley, an optical engineering student. Ben Katz, a 2018 computer engineering graduate, placed second in the men’s overall division in a competition at St. Louis last year.

While there are 12 positions for students on the varsity team, there’s also room for novice climbers on a junior varsity club. And, other students come to join in the fun when available throughout each school year.

“I started climbing three months before coming to Rose-Hulman, and hoped that there would be a wall here on campus. I love it,” says Fusaro, in between climbing sessions on campus. “It’s an ideal way to get a great physical work out while having fun with your friends. It’s exciting to find out who you will find climbing the wall each day.”

Whenever more difficult challenges are needed, team members test their skills at EPIC Climbing and Fitness in Indianapolis, with 18,000 square feet of climbing walls. Several students also spent last year’s Spring Break navigating real rock wall surfaces and hiking trails at the Red River Gorge near Richmond, Ky.

“We just love climbing,” says Ridgley.