The last few weeks, I did something I tended to avoid during my time in high school: I trained and took part in an athletic competition. Something that would surprise my past self even more is how much I enjoyed it.
Unlike other competitions, this one wasn’t based on covering a distance in the shortest time possible, lifting weights, or scoring more goals than a competitor. Rather, it simply consisted of a series of challenges with a simple goal: manage to get from point A to point B.
The catch? The path you had to take was straight up.
I’m referring to the Adventure Recreation Center’s annual climbing competition: Gravity Check.
Climbing was a hobby I didn’t start until I attended Ohio State. OSU has a free-to-use (for students) climbing gym on West Campus. I had been eager to try climbing the moment I set foot on campus, but was intimidated by my lack of experience. Luckily, OSU offers classes and clinics in the knots and skills necessary for climbing and belaying. Last semester, I eagerly signed up for a semester-long one credit hour class in “wall climbing.”
Each Monday at 8 am, I would harness up, chalk my hands, and learn to ascend walls that gradually got more difficult. My friends and I found ourselves driven by the feeling we got, finding ourselves balanced on tiny ledges and holds, reaching for the top of the wall at the limit of our strength and ability.
Athleticism allows us the wonderful experience of testing and improving our limits. Despite feeling secure in the knowledge that my friends would catch my falls via rope and harness, the feeling of shifting balance to a point of no-return in an attempt to reach a far hold (a move known as a dynamic move) is exhilarating given the addition of height. Finally ascending a route that previously felt impossible leads to the satisfaction of knowing you pushed your limits a little further and became stronger as a result.
It was this drive to push ourselves, that led my friend and I to sign up for the 2018 Gravity Check competition.
The competition was organized in a very clever straightforward way. A series of routes were marked with numbers and given point values. The rules were simple:
1. Ascend a route without falling to get the specified points.
2. If you fall, you must start over.
3. Each fall lowers the point value of the route.
Perhaps overzealously, we decided to try some routes in the middle of the difficulty-grade. It didn’t take us long to realize that every route in the competition was challenging enough and we had to reassess our approach.
For scoring, the top five scores were added together. This meant we had to make sure that we could even
complete five routes. My climbing partner found his limit and bowed out. Determined to qualify by completing five routes without falling (known as “sending” a route), I continued to push further, finding myself tired and exhausted- but ultimately successful.
I was humbled by the balance and strength shown by other competitors as they competed to get the highest score, and motivated to return soon and try the routes that proved too challenging the first time.
My climbing class ended last semester, so now I must schedule my own time to practice, taking along friends certified to belay (known as providing a “catch”).
I would encourage all students to try out OSU’s climbing gym. Even if you have never climbed before- you may find a new hobby.
In the theme of the recently completed Winter Olympics:
“Citius, Altius, Fortius” (The official Olympic motto: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”)
Information, guest passes, and hours can be found