In the pictures of Wildcat Recreation Center staff member Salam Ali fixing the rope to my harness for the first time, you’ll see me beaming with eyes cast down, watching her hands as she explains the reliability of the Figure-Eight Knot she’s tying.
What you don’t see are the frantic thoughts racing through my mind: “Why am I doing this? This is a terrible idea. I hate heights. Are you crazy? Look at how high this wall is!”
But at that point, there was no turning back.
I had agreed to face my fears of heights and aversion to exercise in order to write about the WREC Climbing Gym for this blog.
In theory, it had sounded fun. But actually standing there—all too aware of my physical weakness and propensity for panic attacks, clammy hands clutching the satchel of chalk that would soon be strapped to my suspended body—not so much.
The route I would be attempting was for beginners. Called “Green Jugs,” it was marked by the green holds which would guide my hands.
“Your feet can go anywhere,” Salam reminded me.
Hands on green, feet can go anywhere. It became a pseudo-mantra I repeated to myself out loud and in my head to start focusing on the reality that I would at least have to try.
The WREC was relatively empty on that summer afternoon, and in the good company of two supportive coworkers and the amazingly positive and reassuring Salam, I realized that though facing fears under any conditions takes courage, this was an extremely safe and controlled way to do it.
I squared up to the wall and took a few deep breaths. Hands on green, feet can go anywhere, I thought. I assessed the start of the route, noting that Salam had been right when she said a lot of climbing is problem solving. You have to think about your upcoming moves and plan ahead.
I found what I thought was a good place to start, reached up, and started to climb.
As soon as both of my hands and feet were off the ground, all thoughts about the height of the wall fell away. I had to focus on figuring out the puzzle, putting myself in a position to better leverage my strength. Ah, this is the fun part, I thought.
I made move after move, slowly making my way up the wall, totally intent on the task at hand. I climbed nearly halfway before I didn’t feel strong enough to push up with my legs and get to the next hold. My body had reached its physical limits.
But making it to the top didn’t matter to me. As I rappelled down the wall, I was satisfied. I had given it my best and came away empowered by saying yes to new adventures, even when failure isn’t completely off the table.
In fact, looking back on my college career, this theme of saying yes to the things that scare me has led to some of my most rewarding experiences. Sure, I had my share of setbacks and defeats, but I never would have been the editor of the student newspaper or landed an internship at The Sacramento Bee if I had let the fear of failing keep me from moving forward. As Salam told me, “If we gave up after every failure, there wouldn’t be any climbers!”
Do you want to try out the Climbing Gym? Don’t be intimidated. The wall is open during summer Monday through Friday 3–8 p.m. and Sunday from 3–7 p.m. Normal operating hours are Monday through Friday noon–10 p.m. and Sunday 3–9 p.m. The gym boasts 36-foot walls and 3,000 square feet of climbing space with over 125 routes for all skill levels on bouldering and top rope climbing walls. Staff belays and equipment are available for free. In addition, sign-ups are open now for Adventure Outings’ Introduction to Rock Climbing trip Oct. 18–19, 2014.
Q&A With Salam Ali
WREC Climbing Gym floor staff and senior mechanical engineering student
How long have you been working at the WREC? I am a recent hire to the Climbing Gym, but prior to hire, I frequented the Climbing Gym three, sometimes four days a week.
When did you start climbing and how did you get into it? I began climbing four years ago when I took the Intro to Rock Climbing class with kinesiology faculty member Michael Dent. Ever since then, I’ve continued to learn and grow as a climber.
What’s the best thing about climbing? The complexity of it all. Climbing isn’t repetitive like running or other physical activities. I also like how climbing is an all-around workout. It works most, if not all, muscle groups and cardio is incorporated into it too.
What does it take to be a good climber? I honestly think that patience is what makes a good climber, not how strong you are. There are times when you’ll attempt a certain boulder or top rope problem multiple times and not be able to complete it. Most would become frustrated and give up; however, good climbers take a breath, reassess the route, and try again.
What’s your best advice for new climbers? Come in with a positive attitude, ask a lot of questions, and don’t give up! I think that most people don’t try out climbing because they are apprehensive and don’t know much about it.
Any words of caution for new climbers/common mistakes you see by new climbers? If you are unsure about what to do or how you’re doing something, please ask us! We are here to provide a safe environment for everyone to learn the fundamentals of climbing.
Do you have any climbing-related goals you hope to accomplish? My current goal is to be able to complete a 5.11a (top rope) and a V4 (boulder) by the end of the year!
As we return from another spring break that saw Chico State students making a difference through well-known programs like CAVE’s Alternative Spring Break and the Blitz Build, we wondered, “What else do our Wildcats get up to while they’re away?”
Well, during winter break, 10 students, all trip leaders with Adventure Outings, took their skills to Arizona to raft down the Grand Canyon.
Video by Sami Hawkins, Nicko Hawkins, Juniper Rose and Keith Crawford
Don’t miss out on the trips offered by adventure outings to students and the Chico community. To go on an exploration, click the links below to sign up for the available trips. For questions, call 530-898-4011 or visit the office in the Bell Memorial Union basement (BMU 008A) Monday through Friday 9-5 p.m.
There are 12 of us standing on the corner of Cherry and Fourth Street in front of Adventure Outings’ warehouse, close enough to talk but just anxiously watching each other’s breath as we ponder what crucial gear we forgot at home in our half-asleep states.
It was the first day of Adventure Outings’ raft guide school—the first day of spring break 2012—and I realized I just willingly chose to spend my only free eight days of the semester in a wetsuit.
What I didn’t realize was that I would also be spending those eight days with a group of people who would become my best friends and learning skills that would change my perspective on life. Not to mention, those people and skills would wind up getting me a job that would lead me to spend my summer on a boat in the sunshine, getting paid to doing something most people pay to do.
Whitewater rafts, wetsuits, life jackets, helmets, tents, and coolers were piled into vans, followed by nervous bodies.
From our instructors to students who had never been rafting before, we were about to get to know each other, our gear, and the Trinity and Upper Sacramento Rivers and learn to guide a raft while surging down rapids.
Guiding is about technique, reading the water, quick decision making, and flexibility. You can’t control the river—you can only work with it. Our instructors handed us a paddle and let us try it. If we were smart, we learned from their advice; if we were lucky, we learned from someone else’s mistakes. Mostly, we learned from our own trials and accomplishments.
But guide school taught us more than just how to guide boats, it taught us life skills.
Through a series of clinics, we developed basic river safely skills and gained the confidence we would need to act under pressure on the river. We learned to tie knots, swim rapids, prepare food on the banks of a river, and stay warm in cold living conditions.
The mentoring wasn’t over when we returned to Chico.
My guide-school instructors showed me where to apply for jobs, and with them as my references, I was offered jobs at both places I applied, two of the top whitewater rafting companies on the American River.
The first weekend of summer vacation, I packed everything I would need in my pickup and drove to Coloma, California.
Life on the river is simple. I spent the summer sleeping on a platform in the woods at the base camp for the raft company I worked for. Getting up for work doesn’t get any better than when you wake up to blackberries dangling above your bed, the smell of pine needles, and the knowledge that you are about to have the opportunity share the river with someone new. When you’re a guide, you might paddle the same river every day, but the feeling of introducing it to someone new, and making a memory that they will hold for life, never wears off.
In less than a week, Adventure Outings’ guide school will repeat, and while I won’t be with them this time, I can guarantee you that on the morning of Friday, March 15, I will be thinking of that little cluster of apprehensive participants out in front of the warehouse waiting to get into that big maroon van, with no idea just how far that trip is going to take them.
By Charles Finlay, AO Marketing and PR Coordinator
Recently I had the pleasure of leading a trip for a group of students who all shared in common a leadership position in the CSU Chico community. Members of the Government Affairs Committee (GAC) made up the majority of participants, but there were also representatives from organizations such as Community Legal Information Center (CLIC) and our own KCSC Radio. Our destination was the wonderful Whiskeytown Lake; our objectives were teambuilding and good times on the lake.
At the helm we had Keith Crawford, our fearless trip leader and Adventure Outings’ new assistant coordinator. This trip marked Keith’s first trip as a leader for Adventure Outings and my first trip as an assistant leader for the fall 2012 semester.
Whiskeytown Lake is a beautiful lake just west of Redding. After a drive of less than two hours, then circumnavigating the crystal clear lake, we found our campsites. Occupied. While the park management resolved the issue, we decided to get in the water. I don’t think any of our participants had much experience on stand-up paddle boards or in canoes, but Whiskeytown Lake proved to be a perfect introduction. Everybody quickly built confidence.
Then Keith introduced our first team-building initiative. The objective was to somehow fit all nine of student government group into a canoe built for two. After three attempts, success was achieved.
Aside from the comical visual, the activity gave us further insight into teamwork: First, we learned that it is necessary to take a step back and observe the problem. Second, to take into consideration everybody’s input – most solutions are a collective effort, not the representation of a single individual. And third, that complex problems are solved by maintaining positive attitudes and persistence on a team level. Our group of campus leader was able to take away some important concepts related to teamwork as well as friendships that will no doubt serve them well as they work together in the semesters to come.
By the end of our teambuilding shenanigans, the campsite situation had been sorted. Our campsite was perfectly situated on the lakeshore, allowing us to paddle around during the sunset. Sunset was absolutely wonderful. For dinner, our team of master-improv chefs prepared delicious burritos with pico de gallo. For dessert: fresh-baked brownies. We sat around watching the sky change colors from gold to orange, pink to purple, and eventually stars filled the clear mountain night.
As I reflect, I realize these are the weekends that stand out in my memory. Trips with Adventure Outings offers the opportunity to meet new people, build lasting relationships, and learn skills to interact with both people and nature.
We all pace up and down campus waiting for the weekend, when we can dress up, go out, and continue the cycle; it is not an easy one to break. Sometimes you just need to throw a wrench in the system. Do something new!
Adventure Outings makes a great wrench for throwing into systems. I encourage you to try something new. Come on an Adventure Outings trip, and I make you this promise: have an open mind and a hunger for the unexpected, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
By Charles Finlay, AO Marketing and PR Coordinator
One of the best vacation experiences I can recall was my Staff Orientation trip with Adventure Outings, though it may not meet the strict definition of “vacation” for some. A trip with Adventure Outings can require effort, but is paid back tenfold in tangible memories and unadulterated satisfaction.
It was backpacking through the Ishi Wilderness, swimming through brush to emerge on a ridge with breathtaking views. It was learning hard skills and creating bonds with brothers and sisters who, at first glance, appeared to be strangers. It was standing in awe of the rugged terrain, inspiring geography, and the utterly sublime beauty of the wilderness. It was relaxing near the creek under a clear night sky after the best meal in my entire life.
Maybe not everybody agrees that being outside without a shower for five days and nights fulfills the definition of “vacation.” Maybe it’s just me. Trips with Adventure Outings give me space to think, time to ground myself in reality, and show me that happiness is more than a night downtown. People make the world much more complicated than it actually is. I challenge you to investigate; prove me wrong. Show me what is better than a weekend of clean air and good conversation with good people.
Adventure Outings offers mellow and relaxing trips such as Twilight Stand Up Paddling or Deer Creek Day Hike and Yoga. We also have technical and challenging trips such as Intro to Hardshell Kayaking.
Now is the time to book your adventure. We are currently offering our 2012-2013 Adventure Pass. This includes a weekend rafting trip, a weekend land-based trip, and a day trip. In addition, you get an AO shirt and two tickets to the Banff Film Festival Tour. All this for only $175 and your trips do not expire until the end of spring semester 2013.
Juniper Lake Canoe and Hike – Sept. 14-16
American River Raft – Sept. 14-16
Flume Day Hike and Swim – Sept. 15
Twilight Stand-Up-Paddle – Sept. 20
Come by our office in BMU 102, inside, just across from the bookstore or give us a call at 530-898-4011. Add us on Facebook at facebook.com/adventure.outings.chico