Rock Stars at Johnson State College


Agathe Fredette

Silas Mader, Chelsea Austin. Anilese Peterson and Kat Hamilton

Johnson State College’s practice rock climbing wall is a little gem hidden away in the SHAPE facility on the JSC campus. When you enter, you are immediately hit with a strong smell consisting of the aromas of human sweat, tears, hand chalk, and determination.

Stretching along the left side of the room and the back wall is the climbing wall, reaching all the way up to the high ceiling and covered in a multitude of differently shaped hand and foot holds in variety of colors. Along the right side wall of the room rests an old squishy orange couch and a wooden desk littered with a variety of random items along with a collection of rock climbing gear.

Kat Hamilton has been a rock climber for the past five years. She now works at the practice rock climbing wall at Johnson State College every Wednesday and Sunday evening. She helps maintain the wall, change around foot and hand holds, organizes and takes care of the gear, as well as teaches beginner rock climbers.

When I arrived at the climbing wall on a rainy Sunday evening to photograph Hamilton, we chatted briefly and I told her that I was looking for a variety of different angled shots, including candid shots, for my photojournalism project that I was working on, and told her that she should just do her thing. She immediately got to work roping herself in and with the help of a fellow climber, hoisted herself up to the very top of the climbing wall, and began adjusting and replacing some footholds and handholds.

From this angle, with Kat positioned at the very top of the climbing wall with the bright lights from the ceiling silhouetting her figure, I was able to get some very interestingly angled shots. Once she finished her task and got back down to Earth, I asked her to strike a pose against the rock climbing wall. Kat, being as wonderfully Kat-like as possible, put on a huge smile and showed off her impressive guns she had acquired over the years from rock climbing.

Afterwards, for one of my close up shots, I asked Kat to show me and tell me about her favorite piece of rock climbing equipment. She went to the desk strewn with a plethora of ropes and pieces of equipment and brought to me this wonderful little gold Ropeman piece climbers use to securely and steadily move along a rope during their ascent or descent.

For another close up shot, I asked to see Kat’s skilled climbers hands covered in the chalky white climbing powder, and was able to get a focused shot of her hands up close with her smiling face in the background. For my close up shot of her face, I had her stand next to a set of ropes and zoomed in on her sparkling eyes as she watched her fellow climbers work on another part of the rock wall.

Afterwards, Kat showed off another of her many talents and posed on her hands against the rock wall, a huge lively smile on her face for the shot that was one of my top favorites from the shoot.

To end our photo session, Kat decided to rope in the other members of the staff that were working that night for a unique staff group photo. Kat is always a pleasure to work with and I took a variety of unique and interesting photos during this brief photo session thanks to her participation. Thanks, Kat! You are a true rock star.

If you have never taken a visit to the rock wall on the JSC campus, you definitely should. And if you have never tried rock climbing, do it. Visit the rock climbing wall during open hours and one of the lovely staff members will gladly introduce you to the world of rock climbing. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is one way to truly feel alive.