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CSU climbing wall creates culture of acceptance

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Collegian | Luke Bourland
Climbing gear sits on a rock.

In a sport known for its unforgiving nature, there is a spot left for acceptance within the climbing community.

At Colorado State, a significant portion of the student body participates in climbing of some form, whether that’s at the Student Recreation Center, at Horsetooth Reservoir or even internationally.

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“I feel like the climbing culture is unique in the sense that you can see it, kind of, all around the world,” senior Henry Butchart said. “Whenever I travel, I bring my climbing shoes, and I’ve climbed in lots of different places and gyms, and they all kind of have the same culture of being very welcoming and supportive of each other.”

The community within the Rec Center is something clearly held to a high standard by both employees and students. At the climbing wall, there are plenty of opportunities for students who may have never been climbing before to get involved in the sport.

“(There are) some people that might feel a little bit intimidated by the climbing wall space and having lots of people around,” Climbing Wall Manager Ben Stapp said. “We have programs that are outside of our normal working hours for people of different backgrounds.”

Nearly every night, there are classes to teach students how to get belay certified, special lessons for female-identifying students and even events that partner with the Student Diversity Programs and Services offices.

“We have our She Climbs Series, which encompasses a whole bunch of different classes for female-identifying climbers,” Stapp said. “We also have Out at the Wall, which is a part of a Rec-wide thing that we do to encourage LGBTQIA+ (people) to come in and enjoy the space and find people in their community that they can climb with.”

Accessibility is clearly high on the list of priorities for staff at the Rec. Most activities and classes at the climbing wall for students are either free or have low costs to participate, and this opens the door to climbing for a lot of people who would otherwise not have that opportunity.

“I only got into climbing about a year ago, and I only exclusively come to the Rec to climb,” senior Austria Pfanner said. “The low cost definitely helped (get me in to climbing). I didn’t come to CSU having ever climbed before, but I came last year and figured out that we did have this resource, and that was a huge part of it.”

The climbing wall at the Rec Center is one of the most popular places to work out on campus, racking in 20-plus students at once during the rush hour. The smaller space creates opportunities for climbers to forge close friendships as well.

Going into the climbing wall area, climbers can be seen cheering each other on as they attempt the variety of routes available. A tiered system is in place to grade the climbs in bouldering and top rope, both of which are set at the Rec Center.

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At the Rec Center, managing staff understand that the majority of climbers are new to the sport, so the climbs available typically range in the lower half of the grading scale. On the bouldering wall, climbs range from a V0 to a V9; the highest grade of bouldering is V17, but there are only four climbs in that category.

With free gear checkout, a variety of climbs and a welcoming community at the Rec Center, it’s no surprise the wall is as popular with students as it is. When a student walks into the Rec Center, the climbing wall is the first thing they see, and when they leave, it’s the last.

From the gyms to the crags, the climbing community at CSU has cultivated a welcoming and friendly environment for all students.

Reach Emma Askren at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @emma_askren.

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

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About the Contributors
Emma Askren
Emma Askren, Sports Editor
Emma Askren, alongside Damon Cook, is the fall 2023 sports editor for The Collegian. She began working at The Collegian during her first year in the fall of 2022, when she covered the swim and dive team as well as anything sports-related. She is currently a sophomore at Colorado State University, where she is majoring in journalism and media communication and double minoring in Spanish and sports management. During her first year, she joined the rowing team, began working as a reporter for The Collegian and working at the Student Recreation Center. Askren applied to CSU as a journalism major, knowing she wanted to combine her passion for sports and writing to create a fulfilling career. Upon realizing that Rocky Mountain Student Media was hiring for first-years, she jumped at the opportunity to become a writer for The Collegian. While working for the sports desk, Askren has had the opportunity to write about hockey, logging, whitewater rafting and the importance of women in sports. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, she seeks to break the status quo and become a successful sports journalist following graduation. Following a year as a sports reporter, Askren became a co-editor for the sports desk alongside Cook. Together the duo seeks to create a new and improved sports desk that caters to all readers of The Collegian and beyond.
Luke Bourland
Luke Bourland, Photo Director
Luke Bourland is a history major from Durham, Connecticut. Bourland is studying history in hopes of going to law school in the fall 2022 semester after graduation. In terms of which law school Bourland wants to go to, he likes to joke, "I will attend anywhere that'll have me!" Bourland has been taking pictures recreationally for most of his life but did not officially join The Collegian until the beginning of his sophomore year in 2019. Bourland originally joined The Collegian to develop his skills and to photograph out of his comfort zone. During his time at The Collegian, Bourland has held positions such as freelance photographer, media archivist, assistant photo editor, photo editor and finally, photo director. As the photo director, it is Bourland's job to make sure the paper is accompanied with beautiful pictures alongside the photo editor. Bourland has photographed events ranging from speeches and galas to football and basketball games. In his free time, Bourland is an avid golfer, fly-fisherman and still loves to take pictures recreationally. Differing from the style of photography at The Collegian, Bourland enjoys slowing down and shooting landscapes and portraits on film. Bourland first learned how to develop film with a friend in the bathrooms of Corbett Hall, stuffing towels under the doors to avoid any light leaking in. No matter where life takes Bourland, he hopes that photography will always be there along the ride.  

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