© 2023 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Michigan State Climbing Club Seeks To Grow Sport On Campus

Rock Climbing
Benjamin Cady

The 40-person climbing club welcomes beginners and veterans, and hopes to build its own climbing wall at MSU soon.

Emily Brouwer, a senior environmental studies and sustainability major, had no idea what she had gotten herself into when she got invited by a friend to a “crank night” in Ann Arbor. Brouwer fell in love with climbing that first night, and now is a member of the Michigan State climbing club.

The MSU Climbing Club is one of the more obscure sports on campus, but it is open to all students. The club’s members are beginners and veterans of rock climbing, who get together and enjoy the great outdoors. The 40-member club travels to crank nights around the state, where climbers of all experience levels can get together at an indoor gym for a low price and just climb, as well as places such as Red River Gorge in Kentucky for world-class rock climbing.

“When I joined, I had no experience except for climbing a wall once or twice when I was a kid,” Brouwer said. “For me, I think the coolest thing about climbing club is that it opened my world to a sport that I could do on my own and with friends. So many different kinds of people with different backgrounds climb for fun and for sport. I have met so many cool people because of it and also made some of my now closest friends.”

The club’s veterans teach the members different types of indoor and outdoor rock climbing, such as bouldering, sport climbing and trad climbing. Even though rock climbing tends to be dangerous, no experience is necessary for new members. They get the opportunity to learn climbing basics such as how to belay and tie themselves in safely as well as go on trips around the state and country.

Senior civil engineering major Benjamin Cady had a slightly different experience to his start with the climbing club. He got involved after a climbing trip to Kentucky with a friend. Prior to joining, his skill level was average - he had tried the sport only once or twice before but never took it seriously until he came to MSU.

“I was always a backpacker growing up, traveling through different areas of the Appalachians, Rockies and southern Canada. Climbing allowed me to experience more out of some of those amazing places and open up new ones in terms of opportunity outside of just hiking,” Cady said.

Brouwer and Cady said that one of the club’s main goals is building a climbing wall on campus for MSU climbers. Right now, they typically travel to a rock gym in Ann Arbor called Planet Rock if they want to climb indoors. The newest climbing gym in proximity to MSU will hopefully be built by next December in Battle Creek, and the nearest outdoor climbing is in Grand Ledge.

Rock Climbing
Credit Benjamin Cady

Funding is the biggest obstacle the club faces in building and equipping new wall, as it is estimated to cost $12,000. The club is fundraising through donations and applying for grants.

“Building a climbing wall or a moon board is definitely a big goal that the climbing club has. Long story short, the interest exists to build a wall and there have been attempts to build a gym in Lansing, but funding got cut short,” Brouwer said. “Currently the MSU club is working on finding ways to get approved funding and space to replace an existing climbing feature in IM West with something more useful. We have to find a designated area on campus where the wall could be built, plus find the appropriate funding to make it happen.”

Despite the lack of funding for a wall in the MSU and Lansing area, the club makes do with the other opportunities they are presented around the state. Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Grand Ledge are only short drives away. Over spring break this year, they are headed back to Kentucky to experience the beautiful scenery and intense climbing. Brouwer and Cady agree that, despite having to carpool to climb throughout the week, the people involved in the MSU club make it all worthwhile.

“The coolest thing about climbing club is the opportunity and the community it provides,” Cady said. “We have climbers from all over the world and from all skill levels. It doesn’t matter if someone is a thrill seeker, fitness junkie or just loves the outdoors, there’s a place in climbing club for them.”

Donate $5/month or more, support award-winning journalism, AND enjoy digital access to The New York Times Cooking or The Athletic as our gift of thanks, along with WKAR Passport, for streaming your favorite PBS and WKAR TV programs on your own schedule. SIGN UP TODAY!