How I started the rock climbing club on campus

After a rocky (pun intended) start, Cabrini’s rock climbing club has been a major success. Photo by David Tilton

Starting a club on campus can seem like a daunting task. I was in a similar boat my freshman year (last year) when I started up the rock climbing club.

After being disappointed with the small selection of clubs on campus when I attended an involvement fair, I decided to try and start my own club. I wanted this club to be a rock climbing club because I had been climbing for eight years and I had been going to the Gravity Vault in Radnor, which is about five minutes away from campus. Additionally, I figured that the gym would be supportive of the club, since other local schools climb there.

My first step to get the club up and running was to see if there was any rock climbing programs at Cabrini in the past. It turned out that there used to be trips to the Philadelphia Rock Gym in Oaks. However, it had been many years since these events ran.

I was hopeful that Cabrini would be willing to support another rock climbing club or program. In order to spread awareness of my idea and grow interest in the club, I put posters up in my dorm building and around campus.

I got a handful of responses from students interested in climbing. Two of these responses were from David Tilton and Rachel Hetrick, who were also avid climbers. They were also interested in starting the club and wanted to help get the club up and running.

I put posters, such as this one, around campus to generate interest in the climbing club. Photo by Max Silverman

The three of us met multiple times to discuss plans for the club. We decided on four things to work on: find more potential members (you need at least five to start a club), see if the Gravity Vault would allow us to climb as a club there, figure out a time to climb and find an adviser. Little did we know how hard it would be to find an adviser.

I reached out to many faculty members to see if they were interested in advising the club. However, none of them responded. This was extremely frustrating because we had enough people wanting to climb and they were inquiring about when the club would start. Since we weren’t making any progress on finding an adviser, we worked on other aspects of the club.

David, Rachel and I were much more successful in getting the rock gym on board with our club. Gravity Vault was very enthusiastic in helping us form the club. We also went climbing a few times with other friends to see if it was something that they enjoyed. While these climbing trips were sometimes hectic, everyone had a great time. We knew this club would be a hit, but we were still trying to find an adviser for the club.

David Tilton (center), Rachel Hetrick (left) and me, Max Silverman (right) at an involvement fair. Photo by David Tilton

Eventually, in November of 2019, we were able to find someone willing to advise the club. His name was Orlin Jespersen, senior associate director of athletics for operations and external affairs. The four of us met a few times to discuss plans for the club.

Since it was late in the semester, we decided to start climbing after the break. We also agreed to climb on the first and third Fridays of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. After this, we registered the club. After months of blood, sweat and climbing chalk, we finally had an official club.

In the spring semester, the club encountered many growing pains. While we were able to get over 70 people signed up for the club, we had trouble getting people to climb. We were also plagued by transportation issues. The van would show up 30 minutes after we were supposed to start to climb. We started to get these issues ironed out as the semester went on, but we had to stop climbing once the school shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was worried that the club would start off slowly this year because of COVID-19, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The club always fills up for (now weekly) climbing nights and faces very few issues. After nearly one incredible year in the books, I can finally call the club a success.