How I Started the Campus Climbing Club – Loquitur

After a rocky start (pun intended), the Cabrini Climbing Club was a great success. Photo by David Tilton

Starting a club on campus can seem like a daunting task. I was in a similar boat in my freshman year (last year) when I started the rock climbing club.

After being disappointed with the small selection of clubs on campus when I attended an involvement fair, I decided to try starting my own club. I wanted this club to be a rock climbing club because I had been climbing for eight years and used to go to the Gravity Vault in Radnor, which is about five minutes from campus. Also, I thought the gymnasium would support the club, since other local schools climb there.

My first step in getting the club up and running was to see if there were any climbing programs in Cabrini in the past. Turns out there were trips to the Philadelphia Rock Gym in Oaks. However, it has been many years since these events happened.

I was hopeful that Cabrini would agree to support another club or climbing program. In order to publicize my idea and develop interest in the club, I put up posters in my dorm and on campus.

I received a handful of responses from students interested in rock climbing. Two of those answers came from David Tilton and Rachel Hetrick, who were also avid climbers. They were also interested in building the club and wanted to help get the club going.

I put up posters, like this one, around campus to generate interest in the rock climbing club. Photo by Max Silverman

The three of us have met several times to discuss plans for the club. We decided to work on four things: finding more potential members (it takes at least five to start a club), seeing if the Gravity Vault would allow us to climb as a club there, finding a time to climb, and find an advisor. We had no idea how difficult it would be to find an advisor.

I contacted many faculty members to see if they were interested in advising the club. However, none of them responded. It was extremely frustrating as we had enough people who wanted to climb and they were asking when the club would start. As we were not moving forward to find an advisor, we worked on other aspects of the club.

David, Rachel and I have been much more successful in incorporating rock gym into our club. Gravity Vault was very enthusiastic about helping us form the club. We also went climbing a few times with other friends to see if it was something they enjoyed. Although these climbing trips were hectic at times, everyone had a great time. We knew this club would be a success, but we were still trying to find an advisor for the club.

David Tilton (center), Rachel Hetrick (left) and me, Max Silverman (right) at an engagement fair. Photo by David Tilton

Finally, in November 2019, we were able to find someone willing to advise the club. His name was Orlin Jespersen, senior assistant athletic director for operations and external affairs. The four of us have met a few times to discuss plans for the club.

Since it was late in the semester, we decided to start climbing after the break. We have also agreed to climb the first and third Fridays of each month from 7-9pm. After that, we registered the club. After months of blood, sweat and climbing chalk, we finally had an official club.

In the spring semester, the club faced many growing pains. Although we managed to get over 70 people signed up for the club, we struggled to get people to sign up. We were also plagued with transportation problems. The van showed up 30 minutes after we were supposed to start climbing. We began to address these issues as the semester progressed, but had to stop climbing once the school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was worried the club would get off to a slow start this year due to COVID-19, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The club still fills up for rock climbing nights (now weekly) and faces very few issues. After almost an incredible year in the books, I can finally call the club a success.

Virginia F. Goins