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Climbing to New Heights

Brittany Doucet (3L)

Law students spend a lot of their time reaching for the pinnacle of academic success. This year, some of us are reaching for new heights, but not in the classroom. We’ve taken the climb to the Butterdome. Once or twice a week the newly founded Law Climbing Club heads to the wall to practice our skills.

Tucked away in a corner of the Butterdome, the climbing wall has 11 top-rope routes, lead climbing opportunities, and over 30 metres of bouldering space.  Not a huge space, but the routes are always changing so there is always a new challenge to tackle. So far the club has focused mostly on bouldering, which doesn’t require ropes, harnesses or partners. Many walls require an intermediate skill to boulder successfully, but the U of A wall has something for total beginners as well as advanced climbers.

I have no doubt that there are some talented and experienced climbers in law school who love nothing better than scaling rocky cliffs in the mountains. I’m not included in that group. I climbed in junior high and high school but found it difficult to continue when I left home for university. Being relatively inexperienced poses more difficulties than just limiting the routes I’m capable of climbing. First, top rope climbing is a partner activity since most walls do not provide belayers (the people who catch you if you fall). Many new climbers have not met a similarly inclined friend to climb with. Second, many of the climbers that frequent the walls are advanced. They seem like monkeys with their ability to climb the routes I’ve been having so much trouble with one handed. It’s intimidating. When I climb alone I feel like I spend most of my time trying to stay out of their way rather than just enjoying myself.

The club has been a great answer to these problems. I don’t have to climb alone and I can always grab a partner if I want one. There are varying levels of experience in the group, but many of us are still beginners so there is no intimidation or embarrassment. The group is built on camaraderie, encouragement and providing a way to learn and have fun. The group is small, but we all make the effort to get to the wall regularly, and hopefully it grows. There is even the possibility of summer outdoor climbing trips in the future.

So what’s stopping you from joining us? No shoes or chalk? The Butterdome has all the equipment you need for rent at the wall, and we get a great deal. Deathly afraid of heights? Stick to bouldering. Afraid of getting stuck? Remember those monkeys I mentioned? They set the routes and know every inch of the wall. Watching them will tell you where to put your foot next. No time? The classic law school excuse….but we climb on Friday afternoons so take an hour out of your day and start the weekend right.