5C Climbing helps students of all levels reach new heights

A member climbs up a climbing wall with blue, green, black and red boulders.
Claire Chang HM ’23 climbs up a wall during a meeting. (Anna Choi • The Student Life)

What comes to mind first when you think of climbing? Extreme daredevils performing dangerously steep climbs? Treacherous outdoor terrain where you can barely find a hold? The 5C Climbing Team seeks to make more beginner-friendly opportunities within reach.   

Founded by Laurel Melton PZ ’20, a former climber for Team USA, the 5C Climbing Team is back for its fourth season this year. Since then, the team has established a tight-knit and diverse community, meeting multiple times a week to ensure their skill set continues to grow. 

Bella Jariel HM ’23 is a captain of the team and said that despite the relatively high commitment level, previous experience is not required to join. 

“We have practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Hangar 18 gyms together,” Jariel said. “We don’t require that you have any experience with climbing. The only thing we want is people who are motivated and who will consistently show up to practice with a good attitude ready to climb.”

Georgia Klein HM ’24 joined last year and is back for her second season. 

“I really appreciate having more structured strength and technique building during our practices,” Klein said.

The climbing team mainly practices indoor bouldering, which does not require a rope. Because the walls are shorter and pads under the wall cushion the climbers’ falls, it is considered a safer form of climbing. Additionally, the team is able to socialize better while bouldering because it requires more than one partner. 

“It’s a lot of fun because I feel like it’s much more social than the other types of climbing because you can climb in a larger group, and while you’re not on the wall, you can chat with people a lot more because you’re not climbing with just one other partner,” Jariel said. 

Co-captain Oscar Morrison PZ ’25 said that bouldering is the best form of climbing to ease new climbers into the sport. 

“Most people would want to start out with bouldering when it comes to climbing,” Morrison said. “We also encourage people to, of course, try some new techniques on their own and practice on top of the bouldering we do. But, for now, we’re only bouldering.”  

Not confident in your stone-scaling skills? Jariel believes climbing is a sport people of all skill levels can enjoy. She also said that new members should not be stressed since the team environment is relaxed. 

“Anyone with any experience can have fun in the gym and climb together, regardless of your ability,” Jariel said. “If you just started climbing, it’s super easy for you to just go to the gym with us and pick it up and learn along with people that have been climbing for years on end.”

Klein said she enjoys the diversity of skill levels of the team, noting that she can learn from everyone. 

“I really like getting to climb with other people, and through the team I can go with people who are working on the same things as I am, as well as people of all different skill levels,” she said.

Fear of heights and common misconceptions about the reality of climbing can easily scare off many prospective members. Jariel said she believes it is important to debunk these misconceptions and acknowledge that climbing is not always what is shown in movies and the media.

“You can choose the level of risk that you want to accept when you’re climbing. For the most part, I think it’s relatively safe,” Jariel said. “It’s just going to be just hanging out with your friends and working on climbs that push you but aren’t necessarily like those [big] feats that most people think of when they think of ‘Free Solo’ or other major blockbuster climbing movies. In order to dispel these misconceptions, it just takes them going to the climbing gym and seeing what it’s like.”

Morrison said that fear of failure can be a climber’s biggest obstacle in getting better. 

“My biggest piece of advice in this mobility quandary is don’t be afraid of failure,” he said. “It is very normal, and I think some people can be scared of the act of falling or failure, but you literally cannot get better at climbing unless you fail.”

Klein echoed her teammates’ advice and emphasized the benefits of simply showing up.

“For starting out climbing, it just matters that you show up and climb, this will help you gain experience,” Klein said. “Talk to other people and people with more experience than you. Oftentimes, you might learn a new technique or skill to help finish a difficult climb.”

Morrison said that although the team is relatively relaxed, members do hold each other to standards of commitment. 

“We have expectations for ourselves and anyone else around us, and we hold everyone accountable,” He said. “If we notice that someone hasn’t come into a lot of practices, then we do take action on that and check in.” 

Morrison boasted about the great comradery of the 5CClimbing Team that helps create a welcoming social environment. 

“It’s a wonderful community of people who want to be around other people,” He said. “Everyone is striving towards a common goal of improving their climbing skills.”

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