The Liberator

Bouldering club reaches new heights

George Guckenberger, Web Editor

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Without harnesses to prevent them from falling to the ground, climbers slowly scale artificial rock walls. After reaching the top and then climbing back down, they celebrate.

Junior Yaseen Abdalla created bouldering club in March because he and several of his friends enjoyed bouldering and he hoped other students at LASA would enjoy it as well. He said the sport appeals to him for many reasons.

“I love how bouldering is both mentally and physically challenging,” Abdalla said. “On lots of walls, you can either brute force through them, or you can think about your positioning on the wall to try to make it easier to get up. It’s just a really unique thing about bouldering that I like.”

Bouldering involves climbing up real and artificial rock walls without a harness. The club meets on the first Tuesday of every month, and members climb at the Austin Bouldering Project. Climbing sessions take place once a week on Sunday for up to two hours. Abdalla said the club is welcoming to members of all skill levels. The group usually goes out to eat together after they climb.

“There are walls for everyone, from people with no coordination and no physical strength to people who can just fly up the walls,” Abdalla said. “It’s really easy to get started climbing no matter how good or bad you are. A lot of my friends have come and started on a yellow, the easiest wall, and then move up to a purple, a more challenging wall, by the end of the day.”

Junior James Koeper started bouldering a few months ago when his friends first took him to Austin Bouldering Project. He said he became interested in bouldering club because it was an easy way for him to socialize and get some exercise.

“It’s a relaxed environment,” Koeper said. “You do what you can, and nobody will push you beyond what you feel comfortable doing. Everyone is supportive either way… it’s a great workout and it’s satisfying seeing how you improve. It feels great when you complete a difficult wall climb that you previously struggled on.”

Koeper climbs once every two weeks. He said there are enough members in the club that it is always easy to find someone willing to go climbing with him. He thinks the sport is a unique form of exercise, and said that spending time and energy figuring out how to climb a wall is much more motivating than just trying to do a certain number of repetitions of an exercise.

“My favorite thing about bouldering is watching myself improve,” Koeper said. “You start on a normal climb, that are like most climbing walls which just have easy grips that you can just climb up, to ones with less options and grips available so you have to perfect certain skills like holding onto really small objects and stuff like that. Whenever you can finally beat a wall it feels awesome.”

Junior Zayan Vohra started bouldering at around the same time as Koeper, and decided to join bouldering club so he could find more people to climb with him. He enjoys the physical challenge involved in bouldering, and also likes to work out with other club members at the gym at Austin Bouldering Project.

“The club is very welcoming, when I first started I wasn’t good at anything but they are very supportive of new members,” Vohra said. “It is a lot of fun seeing how much progress I’ve made since I first started.”

The rock gym has a variety of walls, which are color coded based on their difficulty. Koeper said he started on the beginner walls, but has since progressed to more technical walls which involve more difficult grips and other technical elements such as jumps between ledges.

“The whites, blacks and pinks are insane,” Koeper said. “You basically climb up with handholds that are essentially tiny little specs on the wall, and you climb up like 20 feet. I’m certainly not good enough to do those, but with practice people can get there. That’s one of the reasons why bouldering is so appealing, because there are always more difficult walls to climb and ways to improve.”

Koeper said although some of the walls can get fairly high in the air, falling is not much of a problem. There are thick matts below every wall, and he said even when he jumps from 10 to 15 feet in the air he barely feels it. Vohra said he enjoys the atmosphere of the gym, where everyone helps each other try to figure out how to climb the walls.

“I love how I am able to climb and hangout with people,” Vohra said. “After I finish a difficult wall there is an immense feeling of satisfaction, and it proves that I can do anything.”

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Bouldering club reaches new heights