Cheers and short screams erupt from members of the Stanford climbing team as they maneuver around inch-wide holds on the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC) climbing wall. White feathers fill the air as climbers rub sweat-absorbing chalk powder onto their hands.
Bouldering, sport climbing, and traditional (traditional) climbing are the most commonly practiced forms of the Stanford Club Sports Team, which numbers about 50 members. Experience levels range from newbies to contestants on the popular cult reality TV show American Ninja Warrior, such as: B. Ph.D. in the seventh year. student Hunter Swan.
Stanford’s club team was formed about a decade ago and is relatively new. The team found success in collegiate competition, winning the national championship in the two years leading up to the pandemic.
For some team members, the climbing community has been a home since childhood.
Leila DeSchepper ’24 said she “started rock climbing at a friend’s birthday party [she] was eight years old, loved it and stuck with it.” Iso Nairn ’23 began at nine after her uncle took her to a climbing gym, where she was spotted by a staff member.
Each exercise is “fairly open-ended,” DeSchepper said, with team members creating individual training plans that are followed during bi-weekly training sessions.
To vary the ascent routes, the plastic handles are moved around the impressive towers, creating new routes and complexities for team members to overcome. On weekends, rock climbers like Nairn like to venture to outdoor spots like Yosemite and Mickey’s Beach.
Other Stanford climbers, like Wren Cooperrider ’23 MS ’24 and Emmett Hough ’22, took up climbing more intensely during the pandemic. “It’s a good way for me to spend time outside. It’s also a physical challenge that I enjoy,” said Cooperrider.
Similarly, Hough got into the sport because it satisfied his “athletic and adrenaline-pumping” needs. When gyms closed at the height of the pandemic, making it impossible for Hough to pursue his main sport, gymnastics, Hough turned to outdoor rock climbing, where he was able to “transfer skills like flexibility, strength and body control.”
But for some team members, climbing is more than just a sweat — it’s also a source of inspiration and purpose.
Consider crimp and dyno enthusiast Krystal Gomez ’24, who started rock climbing in high school and later “co-founded the very first high school rock climbing club in New York.” Recognizing a barrier to entry for marginalized groups to get into the “empowering” sport, she made it her “duty to bring other female climbers into the community.”
“Stanford, in particular, is a very welcoming environment, but outdoor rock climbing has a bro-y culture,” Nairn said, adding that while men and women seem to have equal importance at higher levels of climbing, “it still does.” inequalities exist. ”
Sports have had a firm grip on Stanford culture since the 1940s and 1950s. During this time, rock-climbing enthusiasts scaled the Main Quad’s rough-textured sandstone walls in what has been dubbed “building” — an activity now prohibited on campus.
Following Stanford’s 2019 decision to remove the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation’s climbing wall, the team is now lobbying for a new exterior wall at a location yet to be determined.
When the climbers wrap up their late-night workout, they head outside onto the grass for a core workout. Even when the chalk powder smears are washed away, the memories forged of climbing together are indelible.