April 14, 2024

“I can’t do it!” she shouted down to the tiny figures nearly 40 feet below her. A chorus of, “You got this, Katie! Keep going! Take a deep breath. This is the hardest part!” erupted from the group standing at the base of the rock where Katie Hagberg, junior communication studies major, was in the middle of a climb.

Spurred on by the encouragement of her friends, Hagberg finished the route and returned safely to the ground, with hands still shaking and a huge grin across her face.

New friends, adventures, challenges, encouragements and giant rocks are the bare essentials when it comes to a memorable day out with the rock-climbing community.

This eclectic group of students, with majors ranging from biology to theater to engineering, have formed a unique community at California Baptist University.

They have created a welcoming environment for anyone from any background, with any level of experience, to band together and bond over climbing rocks.

Calen Plouffe, senior kinesiology major, lead climbing attendant and route setter at the Recreation Center, is the president and founder of the CBU Climbing Club.

“I founded the climbing club because I had heard that there were other people at school that climbed, and I wanted to be able to meet them and build a community together,” Plouffe said. “It’s a good way to get involved and feel included on campus.”

The sport of rock climbing is challenging and may not be suited for every person, but anyone is welcome to try it and the climbing community provides a safe place for one to do so. In order to be successful at climbing, it is necessary to have a group of people who push and encourage each other, both on and off the wall.

“I get to see people doing something that’s challenging themselves,” Plouffe said, explaining that one does not always have to climb to appreciate the experience. In fact, on the group’s outing to New Jack City, Plouffe only climbed one route and he still enjoyed the day out, spending time with friends and basking in the outdoors.

Cooper May, freshman global community science major, has been rock climbing for five years and said he particularly loves the adventure that comes with climbing.

“Climbing is all about going to new places, experiencing new things and testing your limits,” May said. “There is no other sport that relies so heavily on nature and creation, and that connection, when taken part in, is unbelievable.”

A group of five to 10 climbers, organized by May, have begun making trips to local climbing areas on the weekends. Locations include the Riverside Rock Quarry, Box Springs and an overnight trip to New Jack City in Lucerne Valley, Calif., over a recent three-day weekend.

Jacob Woodhead, a graduate student in the sports management program, is the graduate assistant at the Recreation Center who is in charge of managing the climbing wall and the climbing wall staff.

“The main focus (of the climbing wall at CBU) is for those people who want to come to a safe environment and be taught by people who know the sport and build their skills,” Woodhead said.

Though the wall can be intimidating, the climbing wall staff uphold the friendly nature of the climbing community and are willing to help and guide students.

“Climbing is a sport that can push you physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually,” Plouffe said.

As members of CBU’s Climbing Club say, rock climbers are a different type of people – friendly but fearless. Walk into to any climbing gym or any crag — an outdoor climbing area — and any new climbers there will instantly become  best friends.

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