This year, for the first time in school history, rock climbing will become an official Wesleyan club sport. Students will be able to compete against other collegiate climbers in a series of “bouldering” and “sport climbing” events. But for Rock Climbing Club presidents, Naomi Saito ’16 and Hannah Salzer ’16, climbing is more than a sport; it’s a way of life.
The Argus: When did you first realize that you loved rock climbing?
Hannah Salzer: I’ve been climbing forever. When I was seven I went to a street fair and I got really hooked.
Naomi Saito: I started climbing at Wesleyan my sophomore year. Hannah just brought me to the gym one time and I was kind of like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. Why have I never done this before?”
A: What is it about rock climbing that appeals to you?
NS: It’s dangerous. There’s a risk involved so you get a good adrenaline rush and it’s beautiful. For me it’s a way of engaging with land and the environment in a very tactile way and a very bodily aware way. I like to think of it as almost a way of communicating with rock or land.
HS: I think it can be a really powerful way to become more confident, especially as a woman. I think it can be really empowering to realize that you can do things that seem impossible at first, you can physically be just as strong or stronger than men, and that you can consistently take on things that scare you and succeed at them.
NS: One of the strongest climbers in the world right now is a 14-year-old girl. So it’s kind of like a space where your body, whatever body type you have, you just learn to work with it. You just work with your body; you’re not limited by it. It’s totally cool in that sense. It’s a really empowering sport.
A: How has rock climbing influenced your outlook on life?
N: I think just overall I probably approach things with more confidence and a little more perspective.
H: Yeah, it also makes me feel more rooted here in Middletown. It’s really easy here to only socialize with students and for your life to be confined to campus. I think that having friends who we share this passion with outside of Wesleyan makes me feel like Middletown is my home. Rock climbing has really changed the whole way I relate to Wesleyan and even Middletown. I feel much more grounded than I did before I had something like this. It’s easy to feel restless here or feel a little bit aimless or lost.
A: Would you say that rock climbing serves as a type of escape for you?
NS: I think it can be a really good break. Especially at school, it can be a really effective stress reliever for me. I wouldn’t call it an escape, just because I’m not escaping from my actual life, because climbing is a huge part of my life.
HS: It’s pretty integrated in a way.
A: What are you thinking about when you climb?
HS: It depends on the climb. Sometimes there’s really good movement and that’s good. In the ideal climbing experience, all you’re thinking about is moving and keeping a flow going, like a runner’s high or something. And if it’s not so much then you just focus on not falling. Try not to be afraid. Try not to get into your head.
NS: I’ve met a few people who used to be afraid of heights and used climbing to deal with that or get over it, which makes a lot of sense to me.
A: So you do not have a fear of heights?
NS: I do not have a fear of heights. I never have. Since I was little, I was always climbing on top of things and jumping off of them. My dad actually has crippling vertigo though, which is funny.
A: What do you think is the biggest false stereotype about rock climbers?
NS: That they’re adrenaline junkies. I mean honestly, climbers are like obsessed with safety.
A: So you would not consider yourselves adrenaline junkies?
HS: No, I mean, like, I am one.