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Cultural Context and History of Climbing

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sports
Wordcount: 1341 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Cultural Context and History of Climbing

Throughout writing this assignment I did quite a lot of research online. I managed to collect a lot of information on how climbing because a sport and how climbing was different in the 19th century to now, 2019. The sources I collected are a good start for me to start composing my draft and it’s also a good start to know what climbing was like so I can compare my findings to my observations later on in this research project.

Club Research History, Rock Climbing

Before West Chester was around the practice of rock-climbing was being used all the way back until the 19th centaury. The birth place of rock climbing was said to have been in three areas: Germany, England, and Italy. Rock climbing was mostly an important component of Victorian mountaineering in the Alps as a necessity, later evolving into an athletic sport of its own. Equipment began with an alpenstock which was a long wooden walking stick with an iron spike time, and a woodcutter’s axe. With time the alpenstock and the axe were combined into one simpler tool: the ice-axe. As the years went by people started to take action and start climbing bigger mountains with eye bolts which were used in drilled holes as hand and toe holds.

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Rock climbing didn’t get recognized as a sport up until the 1880s where it began to get noticed in England and Great Britain. Rock climbing grew more and more and started to get discovered and recognized in more countries. Rock Climbing started to get used in competitions to win cash prizes among natives during expeditions. In the 1930s the invention of using multistep aid ladders, solid belays, the use of tag line, and the production of the first soft-soled climbing shoe came to play. This helped make climbing safer and helped solve some problems up on the mountains making these tools perfect ascents for easier routes. By the 2000s the controversial practices of sport climbing spread quickly throughout the United States.

Today climbing has come a long way and technology is starting to change the climbing world. From the invention of indoor climbing, then later taking that idea and transcribing it worldwide where you have universities that host their own climbing club like here, in West Chester. Thousands visit climbing gyms every day and since then climbing has gained significant attention. By 2020 the sport of Rock climbing will be an official Olympic sport. As seen here on campus and worldwide, climbers are consistently pushing the grades and limits of possibility.

Rock climbing in West Chester has been around for some time, they meet once a week providing a unique opportunity for students on the campus to challenge themselves both physically and mentally. The environment there is fun and friendly and most importantly safe. Before students get to start climbing to the top of the structure, they have to participate in a climbing program registration where you focus on basic body movements, climbing equipment, and techniques. A minimal cost of $0-$20 is required depending on what program you intend to sign up for. The programs range in price because, they also range in material provided for you. You can sign up for a free program which gets you started off right, in a two-hour session which helps you focus on the basics in rock climbing. Or you can sign up for a $20 program and go hands on with a personal instructor who will spend two hours with you in skill development and climbing assessment.

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While reading on and on about rock-climbing I was getting curious on how it all goes down. I wanted to know more about the climbing club that West Chester University provides for their students. I got in contact with the president Ruby Rhoad, of the climbing team here at WCU since I was not able to attend one of their meetings just yet since it was postponed due to the bad weather. I wanted to dive a little deeper into the club and see what it had to offer me as a student. I wanted to explore the meetings, the competitions, what the process is like trying to join the climbing club, and most importantly the climbing technique itself. To do all this and get more observations down in my journal I needed to go see the magic happen in person.

I made it appoint to go see and climb the rock wall itself in the recreation center located right on campus. The climbing wall hours on Wednesdays are from 3pm-9pm, so I decided to go after my biology lab which ended at 5:30pm. Walking towards the recreation center with the thought in mind that I was going to climb the rock wall was a little scary at first. I have taken a stab at climbing rocks before but never in the environment of a training center. I had knots in my stomach because I knew I had to go in there and climb the wall even with a crowd of people watching since the rock wall is visible in the recreation center when you are anywhere in the gym.

To experience the thrill of rock climbing in the rec centers 34-foot climbing wall was surreal. I saw students there that looked to be so experienced already that I was scared to what I was walking into. I walked into the recreation center and got greeted off the bat by one of the instructors there at the wall. He knew I seemed nervous, I could tell by the way he approached me by asking me if this was my first time. It wasn’t my first, but to be completely honest I don’t really remember the last time I went to the full extent. Rock climbing is no joke, especially for beginners. The instructor wanted us to know all about the equipment and the safety that comes with wanting to climb a rock wall. There are ropes, harnesses, clips, climbing shoes, chalk bags, and a variety of other equipment’s that you need to get familiar with before taking a climb. After getting to know a little bit about the equipment and the techniques I was ready to climb the wall.

The most important thing to me and what seemed like to be the most important thing for my instructor was for me to feel comfortable with what I was doing. Looking back at my first climb to where I pushed myself to climb all the way to the top, I should have gone about a third of the way up, then fallen to see what it felt like to belay, which is the smooth falling motion climbers do when they push off the wall and fall back. I mentioned that I was afraid of heights, so it took some motivation to have me jump back and play a game of trust fall with the rope.

This experience has taught me a lot about rock climbing, its culture, but it also a lot about myself. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone which is fairly new to me and I tried something also new. Rock climbing it’s a simple concept, pick something and climb to the top of it. We are all born to do it from the day we step a foot in this world, we do it both literally speaking and figuratively. The rock wall has many cultures of its own. It’s a little more unique and laid back but once you are on that wall and you’re either belaying someone down or up, you have to be on top of it, because you can get seriously injured. After somewhat also facing my fears of heights, I can officially say that rock climbing is not a bad experience and I would recommend it to all.

Work Cited Page

  • “Campus Recreation.” Diversity – West Chester University, www.wcupa.edu/_services/CampusRec/forms/climbingPrograms/.
  • “History of Rock Climbing.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rock_climbing.
  • Chaszeyka, Mia. “The History of Indoor Rock Climbing.” Threshold Climbing, Fitness & Yoga, 16 May 2017, www.thresholdclimbinggym.com/history-indoor-rock-climbing/.


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