Sam O.

University Y Student Center


The first day that I walked into the YMCA you would have never guessed that the girl with shaking hands who couldn’t make it to the top of the wall would be outdoors leading sport routes and teaching others a year later.

I had always wanted to learn to climb, but the sport seemed so exclusive, available only to those who were already trained, skilled, and impressive. When a friend told me that there was a rock wall at the Y, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to learn. That’s the special thing about the Y- the unique and welcoming environment allowed me the opportunity to try and fail at a new sport comfortably. Rock climbing was more to me than simply learning a new skill- rock climbing was also a way to conquer my tremendous fear of heights. Though I’d dreamed of climbing for years, I never felt comfortable enough to go to a rock gym, but the Y felt different. In fact, that I began climbing multiple times a week, and soon fell head over heels in love.

A friend, Nick, and I began our climbing journey together, and started planning our evenings around our new favorite sport at the Y. Though climbing was my original reason for getting a membership, it soon became so much more. After climbing, my friend began taking me over to the weight room and began training me to lift. Suddenly, I not only had one new favorite sport, but two! There have been many days when I have spent my entire evening, the span stretching between work and sleep, at the Y. It was easy since the time we were spending at the gym didn’t feel like work, but more like play! I slowly got stronger, more comfortable and confident, and decided that I wanted more.

That’s when I found a sport climbing class through the Mountaineers, a local outdoor focused non-profit. The class taught me the skills I needed to take my climbing further and lead sport climbing routes outdoors. With the extra training, I am now able to spend weekends climbing outside with friends like Nick, while still spending weekdays working on my strength and craft at the Y. I’ve now climbed in 3 different states, gotten lead certified, and introduced many of my friends to the sport. I've started to live and breathe climbing, and none of it would have been possible without my experience at the Y.