First Time Climber is ‘shown the ropes’ Rock Climbing in Buena Vista with the Outdoor Pursuits Club
by Leah Elkins, OUT student at Colorado Mountain College Leadville
Terrified and exhilarated, I experienced rock climbing for the first time in my life with CMC’s Outdoor Pursuits Club. I transferred to CMC in August 2017 from the College of Charleston, a liberal sciences school nestled near the beach, where I studied Geology. From the beach to the mountains, I moved with the intent of challenging myself to thriving in a new community with new adventures. CMC Leadville’s Outdoor Pursuits Club opened the door to exactly that.
The Outdoor Pursuits Club (OPC) is a student-led group of people who yearn for outdoor adventures, planning trips such as mountain biking, skiing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and the like. Students follow their own inspirations to help plan their own trips through the OPC Coordinator, CMC graduate and current student Nick Swerdlin. The first trip the OPC embarked on this year was a top-rope climbing and camping trip down in Buena Vista.
A group of students molded the idea and traveled down to Turtle Rocks to climb and spend a couple nights under the stars. The experienced student climbers who arranged the trip made sure we had all the gear and knowledge we needed to work as a team at our diverse skill levels.
As soon as I heard about this trip, I jumped on the opportunity to join. The chance to get outdoors with other student leaders and gain new skills is exactly why I came to Colorado Mountain College. Like I said, I’d never been rock climbing before in my life! I had no idea where Turtle Rocks was, I had no gear, and I had no previous climbing skills or techniques… I was completely terrified, at first. I was joining a student trip full of experienced climbers and I was about to make it known that I was a fresh newbie who barely knew what I was doing. But nobody cared that I was new.
I was a part of the team, just as important as everyone else for making the trip a success. The thrill of pushing myself to keep climbing up was energetically supported by the OPC students watching from below. They’d inspire me when I got stuck, shout advice on improving my technique, remind me that I’m doing a great job, and never once, not even for a moment, made me feel like I was too slow, too new, too naïve, or too inexperienced. I climbed several routes that day and made it to the top of every one, despite thinking about giving up a few times, proving to myself that I could do more than I thought I could. Knowing the team wanted me to succeed was the reason I was able to succeed. The OPC emphasizes student leadership, so engaged student members put themselves out there and make things happen, making them some of the best people I’ve met.
Constant support and laughter composed the group dynamics, making the school-facilitated trip feel like nothing more than some friends getting together for an adventure in the great outdoors. I felt firsthand the value of student leadership in a non–academic but still educational setting. That experience, the first OPC trip this year, has given me memories of a lifetime and a truer confidence for outdoor recreation. I can’t wait to see where else the OPC takes us this year. Or, seeing as it’s student-led club, I can’t wait to see where else we take each other!