GW Club Climbing kicks off this spring to forge community among climbers

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

Group members said the supportive club makes climbing accessible for anyone interested.

A group of students has turned to rock climbing to build on the sport’s core values of community and partnership inside and outside of the gym through a new student organization launched this spring. 

Roughly 100 students, who will meet about once a week to climb at a local gym in the District, have joined GW Club Climbing after two juniors founded the organization earlier this month. Club leaders said they wanted to connect students who are passionate about climbing with those who are looking for a new hobby and form of exercise.

Junior Madeleine Eichorn, the club’s president, said she has been involved in the sport for more than seven years and searched for a climbing community when she moved to D.C. as a freshman but was unable to find one at GW. She said she wanted to begin the club her freshman year to offer students the opportunity to find the same community she found through climbing, but the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted her plans.  

“You have this whole mix of people, but everybody’s united by this sport,” she said. “So I think I found that beautiful. I just kind of joined this community, and so it’s nice because wherever I go, I can find a climbing gym. And I’m just instantly welcomed there, and it’s so great.”

Eichorn said she secured a job as a climbing instructor at Movement Crystal City, a rock climbing gym in Arlington, and was inspired to start the club after noticing many students using the Virginia gym. She said the club is currently working out a deal with the gym to secure memberships for students to use the rock climbing facility, and the University will help fund the cost.

“We’re trying to make it more accessible for people to get into climbing,” she said.

She said the club hosted informational sessions this past week and will hold tryouts later in February to assess which students have time available to dedicate to the team. She said she is working to upgrade the organization to a club sport at GW, and she’s communicating with teams at Georgetown and American universities about hosting competitions.

“I want to expose as many people to the sport as possible because it is really fun,” Eichorn said. “It is a really great community, and so people that are searching for that I think can really find it in the sport.”

Junior Yutong Jiang, the vice president of the club and a former Hatchet reporter, said he began climbing last year. He said he created a GroupMe for student climbers at GW after connecting with other students interested in the sport through Facebook.

“I added a couple of people that I know who are into climbing, and it just expanded from there,” he said. 

He said the sport also allows students to learn from one another through each climber’s unique style of climbing.

“You can climb and everyone can take a different path or different road and everyone has different styles,” he said. “There’s no one right answer. You can try it in many different ways and get the same result.”

Junior Avery Schmitz, a member of the club, said he met Eichorn after he started working at Movement Crystal City, and he learned he could apply his passion for climbing and join a community of climbers at GW. He said he began climbing this July with his sister and hopes the organization will help other students find a similar passion. 

“It’s not a zero-sum sport where one person wins and the other person loses,” Schmitz said. “It’s way more, at least for me and for I think a lot of people who I climb with and talk to working over at the gym, it’s very much about pushing yourself and setting your own goals.”

He said climbing with others allows for a “supportive” environment where climbers can motivate each other and build deep connections. Schmitz said the goal of the club is to make climbing accessible for anyone interested in getting involved.

“Recognizing that there are a lot of barriers to getting started whether that is gear or hard skills or stuff like that, really being able to alleviate some of those to just make climbing as accessible as possible,” Schmitz said.

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