Eau Climbers: Reaching new heights

    Eau Climbers kick off their season

    More stories from Hannah Bryson


    Photo by Hannah Bryson

    Members of Eau Climbers Executive Board – (From Left to Right) Kevin Siemers (Coach), Austin Perkins (President), Julie Wopat (Vice President), Maggie Israel (Social Media)

    UW-Eau Claire has a rich history of climbing that began more than 30 years ago. The university’s community of climbers turned a new leaf towards the future when they officially formed the Eau Climbers club more than a year ago.

    For the past 15 years, the McPhee Center has been home to a 28-foot rope wall and has been a center for the climbing community.

    Since the formation of Eau Climbers, the club has seen the construction of the bouldering wall located in the Hilltop Recreation Center. This addition to the community provides a whole new challenge to climbing. Eau Climbers President and Coach Austin Perkins, a third-year liberal studies student, compares the rope wall to running a marathon whereas the bouldering wall is more like a sprint. This new addition has provided a place for club members to hone their climbing skills in more than one way.

    The club has a membership of about 40 people, and the majority are beginner climbers or have only been climbing since coming to the university.

    One of the club’s new members, Sebastian Rodriguez, a third-year kinesiology student, shared his reasons for wanting to be a member.

    “The camaraderie, friendship and feeling of ongoing challenge really drew me into the club,” Rodriguez said.

    From a beginner climber to a climber with over 10 years of experience, camaraderie seems to be a common thread in the climbing community. When asked why he puts his time into the club, Perkins also points to the club’s group atmosphere.

    “It really comes down to the culture of stewardship for me,” Perkins said.

    For him, this extends into being able to show new climbers the ropes. Pun intended. In a community where everyone is learning together, the camaraderie exchanged by club members is inspiring.

    Some activities the club does together, aside from climbing, are workouts on Wednesdays and slacklining on Tuesdays. Slacklining is the practice of balancing, walking or doing tricks on a slack rope. According to club President Perkins, the club is also looking to arrange for yoga on Fridays. All of the work the club members put in both on and off the wall has come to fruition, as the new club is already reaching great heights.

    On Feb. 2, UW-Stout hosted Rockfest, the first of six tournaments in the Wisconsin Indoor Climbing Series schedule. The Eau Climbers swept the podium in the intermediate women’s category, took second and third in the advanced women’s category and took third in the beginning women’s category. As a team, they are leading after the first competition.

    Upcoming events for the Eau Climbers include hosting one of the WICS tournaments. The tournament will take place from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on March 9 in Hilltop.

    Since the club is still in its developmental phase, the club’s executive members are looking to expand to fill the needs of Eau Claire’s climbing community.

    One reoccurring issue in most climbing communities is that it is male-dominated. Perkins said when the club started, this was not the case, but as time goes on the club is becoming male-dominated.

    The step the club is looking to take is the formation of a women’s only climbing clinic, to be called Girls vs. Gravity. The clinic would be through the club and would move away from the traditional male domination of climbing.

    Another prospect for the club’s future is obtaining sports team status with the university. This is a long term goal for the club, Perkins said.

    Students wanting to get in contact with the Eau Climbers should message their Facebook page or show up to practice. The Eau Climbers meet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the rope wall in McPhee Physical Education Center on Mondays and at the bouldering wall in Hilltop on Thursdays.

    Bryson can be reached at [email protected].