JSC rock climbing club offers an alternative form of fitness


courtesy of Isaac Bernstein

The JSC rock climbing club hones their knot tying skills

Isaac Bernstein, a freshman and outdoor education major at Johnson State College, has been rock climbing for only about a year and a half. In his senior year of high school, Bernstein was peer pressured into trying out rock climbing by his friends, which, he says, is probably one of the best things to be peer pressured into. Since then, rock climbing has become one of his main passions.

“I’m passionate about climbing because it’s fun. It’s a different kind of thrill, it’s a different kind of feeling,” said Bernstein.

This passion and drive to share his love for rock climbing has led Bernstein to establish the official JSC rock climbing club. Newly founded, the club’s first meeting was on Thursday, Feb. and involved an overview of the club’s goals, events and climbing outings that the club members want to achieve and begin planning for.

On March 22, Bernstein hosted and taught a knot tying and anchoring clinic as part of that week’s climbing club meeting. A variety of safety knots were demonstrated and practiced by participants, with Bernstein providing guidance and answering any questions. Being an outdoor education major, Bernstein found that this was an excellent way to practice his teaching skills while working with a group and individually with participants.

“The purpose of the climbing club is to get more people involved in an alternative type of sport, an alternative type of fitness,” said Bernstein, who is also a staff member of the SHAPE rock wall at JSC, guiding and helping students and community members who visit the rock wall.

The rock wall in SHAPE on the JSC campus is a 25-foot climbing wall that stretches across almost the entirety of the room. Bernstein and the other rock wall staff try to put up a variety of new routes throughout the wall as often as possible, switching out foot and hand holds along the artificial rock face to create a variety of challenges for visitors. There are eight lead climbing stations, five crash pads for bouldering and a variety of shoes and harnesses for visitors to use.

While bouldering is basically free climbing with no gear, lead climbing is when a climber is strapped into harness, which then has a rope knotted to it and clipped to a carabineer at their waist. This rope leads to the ceiling at the top of the rock wall. The other end of the rope is knotted and clipped to another person in a harness, whom the climber relies on to be their spotter and physical anchor if they fall as they are scaling the wall.

“Lead climbing is essentially the more dangerous form of climbing, but it opens up your world of climbing, because then you can do multi-pitch climbs,” said Bernstein. “If you can lead on traditional gear, which are cams and nuts, you can do really adventurous stuff because you can go out somewhere in the middle of nowhere, bring a rack full of gear, and climb a route no one else has done before. Teaching someone the basics of lead climbing opens up skills that are transferable across the board.”

The climbing club is also hosting a weekly event called Scream and Beef at the climbing wall, where participants join together to get collectively psyched up for climbing, with Bernstein leading specific climbing focused workouts and challenges.

Energized screaming, shouting encouragements to each other while climbing and challenging each other to push even further is what Scream and Beef is all about.

While the climbing club is still in the beginning stages, Bernstein is excited to see what heights the climbing club reaches in the future and how he and other club members can get more JSC students interested.

Bernstein said that he wants club members to be actively vocal and enthusiastic about suggesting outings and events they are interested in and want to experience. These include bouldering outings to prime locations nearby, such as Smugglers Notch, which boasts excellent climbing spots because of where the two main cliff faces come together. Because there is a fall from both main cliff faces, there is a giant collection of boulders that feature a high number of natural foot and hand holds to explore and practice on.

Bernstein also wants to host movies at the rock wall on Friday nights, featuring documentary films about bouldering and rock climbing. There are also plans to go do a group clean up along the base of the Bolton rock climbing crag. This would entail cleaning foot and hand holds, dusting out the cracks and removing old pieces of gear that were left behind.

A ladies’ night will be offered at the climbing wall, which gives both new and experienced female rock climbers a chance to climb in a female-focused and female-empowering environment.

Bernstein understands that trying out a new sport such as rock climbing can be intimidating. When he first started bouldering, he had to push himself out of his comfort zone to progress as a climber.

“It’s something that I fell into accidentally. I started out being afraid of going to the top of the boulder problems because I am afraid of heights,” said Bernstein. “I started bouldering mainly because I wanted to get over my fear of heights in the beginning. I kind of got over that fear and then started to get more into it.”

Since then, Bernstein has become more heavily involved in the rock climbing community at JSC and is focusing on how to push himself further as a climber.

“The beginning of this year, I became more serious about climbing on ropes, top roping and lead climbing, which has helped me get over my fear of heights even more,” he said. “I think this whole process of overcoming fears of something smaller, like a fear of heights, and then translating that into different aspects of my life that I’m fearful about can help me deal with those fears in the same way I do while climbing.”

He highly encourages anyone who is interested in rock climbing, even if they are apprehensive, to come and just try it out, saying that everyone who frequents the climbing wall and those who are part of the rock climbing club all foster a friendly and nonjudgmental community vibe.

“It’s a super chill environment,” said Bernstein. “Everyone is super inclusive. Coming down with a friend is really nice. First of all, I get to see more people down there, which is fantastic. But it’s also fantastic for the new person coming down, because they have a friend to be nervous with.”

The rock climbing wall is open Mondays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The rock climbing club meets every Thursday at 8 p.m. at the SHAPE rock climbing wall.

“Anybody at all in more than welcome to come down to the climbing club and try it out,” said Bernstein. “The climbing club is accepting of anybody who tries their hardest.”