Sweat drips from every pore. Your nails broke hours ago. The skin on your hands feels raw, your toes are curled like claws in your shoes, and your body is battered from falling.
Enter the world of rock climbing. The physical and mental challenges are only some of the benefits. The cost effectiveness is also appealing, especially to college students. All you need are the essentials: climbing shoes that help you adhere to the rock and a chalk bag to dry the sweat off of your hands. Split the costs of transportation, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter between a couple of friends, and you’re ready to hit the road.
Rock climbing is a great stress reliever for students who worry about classes, jobs and scholarships while trying to maintain a social life.
“You’re not worried about anything else you have to do,” said Ross O’Bryan, the current president of the Rock Climbing Club at USF. “You’re just here to climb. You’re just thinking about the problem and how you’re going to send it.”
The club was founded three years ago by Jorge Calabria, a fifth-year senior who was about to graduate. Vertical Ventures stepped in to sponsor many of the events orchestrated by the club. It is similar to a headquarters because it is the only place that provides a rock climbing wall in the Tampa Bay area.
Statistics from the Outdoor Foundation’s 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report showed that over the years, rock climbing has fluctuated in popularity, but the percentage of climbers between the ages 18-24 remains consistent with fluctuations of a few percentage points.
In terms of demographics, “It is generally predominantly male ages roughly between 12-30, but in indoor climbing it is showing more and more that females are getting into rock climbing,” said Christian Tartaglia, co-owner of the rock climbing gym, Vertical Ventures, in Tampa.
“A trend implies that it will be popular relatively momentarily, and then go away,” Calabria said. “In my experience, people that pick up rock climbing don’t drop it.”
Rock climbing is more than a form of therapeutic relief. It transports you away from the mundane.
“Just for showing up to the mountain, I win,” said Vineet Mago, a frequent climber at Vertical Ventures. “I’m there. It’s feeling grounded and seeing that magnanimous beauty.”
Rather than viewing climbing as a fad, the climbers at Vertical Ventures on Tuesday, which is student-discount day at the gym, clamored that it is a lifestyle. It’s the view from the top that makes everything worthwhile.