Tulane rock climbing club redefines “cliffhanger”

Daisy Rymer

Twice a week, the Tulane University rock climbing club travels to the
New Orleans Boulder Lounge, a state-of-the-art indoor climbing facility. Here, Tulane climbers scale walls up to 15 feet high, with no ropes to aid in their ascent and only a soft foam pad to catch them if they should happen to fall.

Under these circumstances, climbing can take a lot of guts, but the club’s climbers strive to create an inclusive and approachable atmosphere. While some club members do have extensive bouldering experience, Tulane climbing’s president, Dominic Casalnuovo, does not think that should dissuade amateur climbers from joining.

“We can teach the new members how we do it,” Casalnuovo said. “No prior experience needed, and I’d say about half of our members come in with no climbing experience.”

In contrast to the members that come to learn, some who do have climbing expertise use the club’s meetings to train for individual competitions since the club itself does not compete as a whole. In these contests, climbers generally represent themselves, not necessarily their university.

At first glance, climbing seems like a very individual sport, but club members always try to foster a supportive environment and provide encouragement when they see a fellow climber struggling. This, Casalnuovo says, is one of the best aspects of the club.

“[Climbing is] really good at building teamwork because you’re never totally trying to beat someone,” Casalnuovo said. “You’re always just trying to improve on yourself, and you all have that same goal.”

Adding to the general spirit of camaraderie, the club also coordinates their practices with students from Loyola University-New Orleans. Though no official Loyola club has been established, Loyola students are in the process of petitioning their student government to create one.

This semester, the club is even looking to take its teamwork outside of New Orleans with a trip to Uptown Climbing, a new rope-climbing lounge in Baton Rouge.

According to the club, members would also like to bring their club’s spirit outdoors but cannot due to liability issues. As such, the climbers often use Tulane Recreation’s Outdoor Adventures program to test their mettle on outdoor obstacles.

The club practices Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Climbing shoes and transportation are provided by the Reily Student Recreation Center, but students must pay for a gym membership themselves.

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