The climbing wall at Merrill Gymnasium, adjacent to the track, has been a much enjoyed and well-used resource for years. Recently, the wall has become so popular that George Fiske ‘19, along with the rest of the Bates climbing community, is now leading the movement to expand it.

With the increased presence of indoor rock climbing gyms nation and worldwide, (the first one opened in America as recently as 1987), Bates’s climbing community, along with the world’s, is rapidly growing.

According to Fiske, a new wall is needed to “accommodate the increasing number of climbers on campus and the increasing skill levels of those who climb.” A new wall would, presumably, “be bigger, and offer a more varied, interesting experience, with more holds, overhangs, and surfaces”, says Fiske. And perhaps the wall would be moved to a more convenient location, away from the chaos of the track.

Ideas concerning a new rock wall have been in various stages for years. Last year, Callum Douglas ‘16, Jordan Cargill ‘16, and Toby Myers ‘16, picked up the idea from graduated climbers. However, according to Fiske, the new rock wall initiative has “never been followed through to completion. This year we’re picking up right where Callum, Jordan and Toby left off, so we’re in a good spot.”

A strong argument and proven student support is necessary in winning the approval of the administration, and the initiative has been met with great support already. In only one week, 83 people have signed the petition–a majority of the signers members of the class of 2020.

Despite the clear enthusiasm expressed from a large number of Bates students, the administration has consistently pushed back, resulting in the process being greatly delayed or shut down altogether. Fiske hopes that by creating enough publicity and awareness about the petition, perhaps this year students on campus can finally obtain an adequate climbing wall that can cater to more climbers of all skill ranges.

Even if you have never even seen a rock wall before, you are welcome to use the Bates wall. Although it may seem overwhelming, the only equipment one needs are climbing shoes (located right next to the wall) and a good attitude! Although the wall can sometimes be crowded with experienced climbers, the proposed new wall would solve this issue.

In the meantime, if you are very eager to experience indoor rock climbing on a bigger wall, as improvements to the Bates one will take too long, take a trip to Salt Pump climbing gym. It is located just outside of Portland; about a 40 minute drive from Bates. Although gear rentals are an additional cost, day passes cost only fifteen dollars. Fiske and the others involved in the rock wall initiative are also working with Salt Pump “to make the gym a more accessible and affordable resource for Bates’ kids.” Other ideas include special events for students, discounts, provided transportation, and yoga classes.

The first event is this Friday, 9/23 from 7-10 pm, and if you have not signed up for this one through the Bates Outing Club, do not worry! There will be more events at Salt Pump in the future. To sign up for future trips to Salt Pump or to get more involved in more outing club trips in general, email Nathan Diplock at ndiplock@bates.edu to get on the email listserve.

And if you want to show your support for the new rock wall, just go to https://goo.gl/forms/oeq99mEqZa273CyJ3 to sign the petition!