The Climb

Fledgingling climbing club hopes to make high stress sport laid back

Technique%3A+AS+Derenski+attempts+a+boulder+problem%2C+he+must+think+about+specific+moves+he+must+to+do+in+order+to+not+fall+off+of+the+wall.+

Chase Redington

Technique: AS Derenski attempts a boulder problem, he must think about specific moves he must to do in order to not fall off of the wall.

Junior Stephen Derenski is splayed across a flat wall 35 feet in the air. Clinging to it, breathing heavily, he can feel his ligaments tighten. He’s so close. He shuts his eyes, takes a deep breath and looks towards the ceiling. He sees the next colored stud coming out of the shear slate. He pulls his hand from the wall, and makes a daring grab for the next hand hold, a breathtaking leap of faith. 

Derenski is doing a type of rock climbing called top roping at the Upper Limits Gym in Chesterfield. He does this about twice a week, scaling the towering walls and the round, giant Boulder. He has done this since mid- December, and has now decided to form a new club devoted to the sport at FHC. 

The team Derenski hopes to build with fellow captain and junior Chase Redington is one that is based on principles of self-improvement. Though the club will compete in competitions at the rock climbing gym, Derenski hopes to still maintain a more relaxed vibe amongst members. 

“There are three competitions every semester given to us by the gym, but our goal for the team is just to have it as a group that comes together and works to improve each other,” Derenski said. “We want people to come through and work with each other and build upon each others’ skills, so where it’s like an open thing where you can just come and do it as you [please], so it’s not as intense as a normal sport you would [have] at a high school. Just a lot more laid back and relaxed.”

The club would be year round, and the types of climbing could be divided across the two semesters of the school year, according to Redington. 

“During the fall season, or the first semester, it’s more bouldering, which is more like problems that require more thought about how to do it, and during the spring season it’s more top roping, which is just like climbing up as high as you can and stuff, with endurance,” Redington said. 

Rock climbing differs significantly from many other sports. It is physically demanding to any who attempt it. Senior Hunter Bowman, a hopeful member of the club, remarked on how the sport requires all consuming effort from one’s body, and at times can require very difficult contortions. 

“Rock climbing is like a full body sport. You need arm strength, back, abs, things that you would ever know you would even use,” Bowman said. “The kinds of positions you get in… I’ve seen people hanging by their toes. [I’ve seen people in] these weird kinds of positions, stuff that you’d never get from any other sport. Not many sports have you sprawled sideways against a wall, holding yourself up by your fingertips. It’s just different, you really kind of get to know your body a little better.”

    In addition to requiring a great deal of physical strength, the activity also demands a great deal of mental acuity. 

“I enjoy rock climbing [because] it’s like a math problem for your head,” Derenski said. “It’s a logic puzzle essentially. You’re trying to figure out where you’re supposed to place your hands, where to place your feet, you have to figure out how to sequence yourself in a physical way.”

It’s a logic puzzle essentially. You’re trying to figure out where you’re supposed to place your hands, where to place your feet, you have to figure out how to sequence yourself in a physical way.”

— Stephen Derenski

    Despite being a sport traditionally done independently, teamwork plays a major part in encouraging and aiding those on the wall. Those below help by giving insight to climbers ascending on what paths they should take next. 

 “Even myself, who’s a beginner, I’ve been able to help out the newer members with different techniques,” Bowman remarked. “Someone will be actively climbing up the wall and you’re sitting there watching them, and you can see angles that maybe they can’t see while they’re on the wall, so you can guide them like ‘oh you know you should step here, maybe put your hand over there’, something like that. You can really help your team out, even if you’re not climbing.”

According to Redington, those afraid of heights should not allow their fear to deter from giving it a try; as one who experienced an initial scare over the altitude of the sport, he assures beginners that the fun of the exercise quickly overcomes the discomfort. 

“Well, if you’re starting out and you hate heights, you’re obviously going to be threatened by that, but the more you do it, the less scared you’re going to be of it,” Redington said. “[When] I started off, I hated top roping…but the more you do it, the more you become accustomed to it.”

Additionally, Bowman assures those trying it for the first time, afraid to put themselves out there, that the team understands their starting performance is only a stepping stone, and the community of climbers is only there to help. 

“Some people may be a little nervous because they think ‘oh I’m bad at this, people are going to laugh at me, make fun of me’, but they’re not. Everyone understands that it’s everyone’s first time and we don’t expect you to be good or anything like that…It’s a helping atmosphere, it’s a helping environment,” Bowman said. “Everyone there wants to help you get better and improve, even people who aren’t on the team, just the people who got there everyday, for a work out. Like I’ve been helped by like 10 people that I don’t even know, just giving advice and things like that, but definitely give it a try, and who knows, you may join the team.”

    The club is not yet official, as it has not yet secured a second sponsor. However, the team is welcoming to new members and ready to aid in a supportive environment those looking to try something new.

    “Just come out and try it. It’s definitely worth it, you’d be surprised what you can do if you just give things a shot. It’s rewarding to feel like [you] actually did something and you were able to get to the top,” Derenski said.