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Nowhere But Up
A new sports club gives climbers a helping hand
By Brian MacPherson

Trying to get climbers together," senior Nick Michaud '09 says, "is like trying to herd cats."

Climbers don't really do logistics, after all; climbers do climbing. But the newest club sport at UNH has given dozens of climbers a chance to do what they do with others who share their passion. From an indoor rock-climbing gym to real rocks, outdoors, all around the state, the UNH Climbing Club quickly has taken its members to new heights.

And it may not be long before they have company. West Point has a club; a handful of small colleges in Vermont with outdoor education programs have informal groups. What Michaud, fellow student Steve Rodriguez '09 and coach Chris Hobson have created at UNH seems to be part of a larger trend.

"One of our missions might be to organize some kind of intercollegiate climbing organization," says Hobson, a local elementary school teacher whose daughter was one of the club's founding members. "We would draw climbers from other schools, whether they have a formally affiliated club or just an informal group like we were last year."

The more the UNH Climbing Club has ventured beyond Dover Climbing Gym to competitions across New England, the more its members have discovered groups from other schools with their same interest in scrambling up boulders. "We ended up going down south to Rhode Island, and who ended up showing up but the West Point cadets climbing team," Hobson says. "We didn't even know of their existence. They are an organized and affiliated club, but with more informal clubs, they're like, 'Hey, let's go climbing' or 'Hey, there's a competition, let's go to it.'"

Michaud caught the climbing bug a decade ago; he didn't play many sports when growing up in Nashua, N.H., but climbing was different. It started with birthday parties, but by the time he was in high school, he was at a local gym, Boulder Morty's, every Tuesday and Thursday night and every Saturday afternoon. The outdoor education major wasn't about to give up climbing when he got to college. He did some climbing at Dover Climbing Gym and some scrambling out at Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham; it didn't take long until he found a group of students with the same passion he had. He did the paperwork to create the club as part of a class project.

The rules of competitions are fairly simple—each route up the wall has a predetermined difficulty, and a climber will get points based on that difficulty if he or she finishes the climb. The routes are very specific; only rocks (or "holds") with tape on them are allowed to be used. If you fall, you start over.

Climbers don't have to belay one another on small walls and ledges, but team members still gather around to help find the best route or suggest the right techniques. "There are other people right there, doing it with you," Michaud says. "Everyone helps everyone out. It's that kind of atmosphere—it's more than being out for yourself."

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