February 4, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Alexis Cornachio | Photo by Gracie Roe

I turned a corner through the doors in the gym I had long been a stranger to. In front of me lay a sea of colorful bouldering foot and handholds. A few of my fellow peers were glued to the bulging and tilted walls like spiders clinging to their web. This was my first time ever entering the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym at Colorado College.

The staff at the front desk greeted me with friendly hellos and seemed excited by the obvious ‘what do I do now’ and ‘can you tell this is my first time here’ expressions that hid under my KN95 mask. One of the employees asked if it was my first time here and what shoe size I wore. I said yes, it was my first time here, told her I wore a size eight shoe and filled out a safety and consent form.

The Ritt Kellogg gym at CC had once been described to me as a fishbowl, a place where everyone can always see you. That immediately intimidated me. The last thing I wanted was to be watched the entire time I was trying something new.

But the experience was actually the opposite of what I had expected; I quickly learned that the Ritt Climbing Gym is a space where climbers of varying experience levels support their peers, uplift one another, and create community. They are eager to bring newcomers into the fun environment.

“I think it’s way more fun when you’re climbing with a bunch of people who are really new to it or like figuring out what the significance of it is to them,” says Hannah O’Leary ‘23, an employee at the Ritt Climbing Gym and a long-time lover of the sport.

O’Leary also talked about the importance of accessibility to climbing at CC.

“The school has made it like: you can [get] shoes, you can go at any time, you can go with almost no skill level – like there’s no like training required. It makes a big difference,” said O’Leary. The accessibility that CC has offered to its climbing resource has made it possible for newcomers at Ritt to try out the sport without any additional financial commitment.

On Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the gym has Women’s Wednesdays for female-identifying students looking to climb. They also offer beginner’s clinics on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Climbers of Color climbs from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the third Monday of every block. These clinics are meant to encourage beginners and underrepresented groups within the climbing community to practice with one another.

“I will say that I do make it a practice to climb only with women occasionally because it is a completely different experience than climbing with men,” says O’Leary, who has observed that in some ways, the climbing community at CC is male dominated.

“CC has a lot of really strong women who have been climbing,” O’Leary says. “I was really surprised by Women’s Wednesdays – they can be some of our busiest chunks of time. We’ll have like 30 women who all will meet in the gym and then will be like, ‘oh, we should do a climbing trip together,’ and make that happen.”

To anyone who has not tried the Ritt Climbing Gym yet, I would strongly encourage giving it a shot. The environment of climbers there are supportive, uplifting, and always looking to bring in new people to their community at CC.

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