November 3, 2016
Part of what makes the Hamilton experience unique is the school’s dedication to its students’ fitness. Hamilton’s physical education program, which requires students to enroll in three physical education classes and complete a fitness and swimming test, is based on the theory that developing a healthy body and a love of sports is crucial for students to maintain a balanced lifestyle. In the middle of Hamilton’s beautiful Charlean and Wayland Blood Fitness Center stands a construction that is emblematic of this commitment to student wellness: a three-story climbing wall.
This 3,000-square-foot state of the art climbing facility offers top rope and lead climbing, as well as a bouldering area. “Routes” on the wall are color-coded with tape, and students can choose between a variety of difficulty levels for climbing.
The wall staff welcomes all skill-levels of climbers, whether you have climbed actively before college or have onever climbed before. The wall hit its peak-popularity at the beginning of fall semester as a swarm of seniors who had never climbed and wanted to do so before they graduated came to harness up. In addition to this crowd were a few curious freshmen who wanted to see what all the hype was about.
For students who aren’t as enthusiastic about working out in the gym, the climbing wall provides a prime opportunity for alternative—and yes, actually enjoyable—exercise. Maggie Horne ’19, who has worked at the climbing wall for one semester now, explained that this is one of the biggest differences she notices between gym workouts and climbing. “You don’t notice that you’re working out as much,” she comments. “It’s not like ‘okay, I’ve got to do my third round of leg presses now.’ You’re having great conversations with people and, at the same time, you work out muscles that you can’t on a machine.” Horne explained that climbers are the most underestimated athletes, as their increased forearm and grip strength equips them with a unique athletic skill set.
Workers at the climbing wall agree that the overall environment of the wall is welcoming and also quite entertaining. One staff member mentioned that she likes to bring her ukulele to work and sit there and strum while she’s not belaying climbers. Another staff member, Abby Kaplan ’19, gushed that she loves “everything about the wall.” Kaplan mentioned that the importance of climbing goes beyond the benefits it has on her physical strength: “It’s very much about mental strength for me. When I started, I was really afraid of falling, so it was huge for me to be able to get on a wall and face that fear in a controlled environment. Now I’m not afraid of falling anymore, and there’s this very powerful element of mental strength that pushes my personal boundaries in terms of fear and in terms of what I’m physically capable of.”
Staff members also mentioned that it’s a fun, rewarding sight to see a climber who has been working on a route for months finally complete it on the first try. The ring of a bell situated top of the wall confirms a climber’s victory, and mixed with the sounds of ukulele, clapping and great conversations, the positive environment of Hamilton’s climbing wall always emanates throughout the fitness center.