Nestled in the heart of the Activities and Recreation Center lies a wall lined with globular grips and neon duct tape.
The ARC Climbing Wall provides a space for climbers and want-to-be Spidermen, but it is also a home base for a close community of people who are happy to share their climbing passion.
Ian Walters, a junior English major and student manager for the rock climbing wall, has been working there for three years and feels right at home when he climbs.
“It’s just kind of a natural thing to do, just to be here all the time; it’s a place that I’m really comfortable,” Walters said. “I enjoy making other people comfortable here because it’s something really special to me and everyone else who works here.”
Walters has been climbing since he was 10 years old, and started teaching four years after that. He now works at the ARC wall and takes trips to climb outdoors. But his favorite part of rock climbing isn’t necessarily what you’d expect from such an avid climber – it’s his fellow climbers.
Walters said he is inspired by people who love to climb and share their passion.
“Being around that group is encouraging; it’s challenging at the same time,” Walters said. “There’s no better group of people that I’ve found. Surfers are close, but only when they’re away from the water.”
Walters attributes a recent surge in rock-climbing popularity to the environment created by the welcoming staff at the ARC.
“We’ve been really trying to make sure our staff is here less to be people that climb and more to be people that get people excited about climbing,” he said. “It really makes a difference when there’s someone here that knows your name. I guess that’s like ‘Cheers’ isn’t it?”
Like a popular sitcom or not, their number of climbers has recently gone from 100 a week to nearly 500 a week, Walters said.
One climber, Daniella DeVera, a junior art studio and design double major, has been climbing for six months and comes to the rock wall two to three times a week to relax.
“I like that [relaxing] aspect of it. How you can forget what you’re thinking and just really focus on bodily movement and responses,” DeVera said.
While a great physical work out, DeVera also found a solid group of friends through climbing.
“Climbers are the best people. Everyone’s really nice and willing to help each other out,” she said.
Thelonious Elliott, a junior art and environmental resource sciences double major, found the wall his first year at Davis and has now worked there for over a year.
“I pretty much tried it out here and fell in love,” Elliott said.
After climbing for a while, Elliott applied for a staff position.
“A lot of times, my job is just climbing with people who come in. It’s kind of the best job,” Elliott said.
When he’s not climbing, Elliott helps set up and revise new climbing routes. As of now, the 40 by 29 foot wall has over 50 climbing routes.
“We try to keep a good spread of difficulty range to keep everybody happy,” Elliott said.
Climbers of all skill levels are welcome to scale the wall. The routes are labeled according to their difficulty using the Yosemite Decimal System.
Walters describes the system as “a way of classifying movement” from beginning first class movement, to advanced fifth class movement. First class movement can be equated to walking along a flat path while fifth is like climbing a ladder.
“5.6 would be like a tough ladder, or a creative ladder,” Walters said.
5.6 is the first route offered at the wall, while 5.12 is the most advanced route.
The staff is responsible for naming the various routes. Elliott said they sometimes try to name harder routes “scary” names. Currently, there are over 50 routes to choose from, with unique names such as “Are we there yet?”, “Avatar,” “Taste the Rainbow,” and “Fishsticks?”
“We try to keep a good spread so everyone has something to work on,” Walters said.
Day passes for the ARC Climbing Wall are $5 and provide necessary gear and instruction from the staff.
Elliott finds rock climbing to be a fun alternative to working out on a treadmill.
“You don’t even notice you’re working out. At the end of the day you’re pretty worked,” he said.
He said climbing has been a positive development for him at Davis.
“It’s really been one of the central things about college for me,” Elliott said. “I’ve been finding myself putting more time into climbing; it’s becoming more central to my identity … I get a whole bunch of friends just by being here.”
Walters encourages people to climb the wall for themselves.
“We’re doing a lot of great stuff here that I think people should check out. It’s a good place to be comfortable and have fun,” Walters said.
KATIE DARFLER can be reached at email@example.com.