‘Your climb is your climb’: Women, nonbinary, trans climb night creates space

OSU student employees are bringing inclusive climb nights to campus

Co-organizers, Kate Hassett (right) and Shelby Wells (left), posing at McAlexander Fieldhouse where the event is going to be held this Sunday. Kate and Shelby are two of three employees who recognized the need for an inclusive climbing space for women, nonbinary, and trans students in a cis male-dominated sport. Not pictured: co-organizer Christine Castles

Natalie Sharp, Beaver's Digest Contributor

Oregon State University’s Adventure Club is hosting its first-ever women, nonbinary and trans climbing night at the McAlexander Fieldhouse on Oct. 9, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The night will include free shoe rentals, exciting raffle prizes from local businesses such as Peak Sports and lots of snacks. This will be the first night to officially kick off this biweekly event that will occur every other Sunday throughout the year, except during long breaks. 

Although this event is only free for OSU students, everyone is highly encouraged to bring friends from the community. Non-OSU students have to pay the standard “buddy” day pass with an entrance fee of $10.  

Organized by Adventure Learning Institute Specialist Kate Hasset, Indoor Climbing Center Wall Specialist Christine Castles and ICC Wall Specialist Shelby Wells, the three of these women said they saw a need in the community and decided to come together to make a change. 

They explained how the night was semi-inspired by the Corvallis Valley Rock Gym’s similar inclusive climb night as well as seeing a fellow coworker start BIPOC partnered belay classes at McAlexander which got the ball rolling on the event.

Additionally, climbing is a heavily male-dominated sport. However, unlike other sports there is little gender separation. This results in a climbing gym with an environment that is majority male the majority of the time. 

“Looking around the gym and seeing there’s not a lot of women here and being like, ‘let’s do something about that,’” Castles said, when talking about inspiration for starting the event. 

The organizers set five main goals for the event. First, they want to create a space where people can feel they belong and are comfortable. Second, having a space where you can see people who look like you doing things you hope to do can be motivating. 

“Representation matters,” said Castles. 

Third, often the climbing community can be very competitive with people trying to get the hardest climbs, but they hope to foster a new environment where: “Your climb is your climb and you get to experience (it) however you want,” Wells said.

Fourth, the isolating impacts of the pandemic are still felt throughout campus, so they hope this can be “a unifying event to bring people back into their community,” Hassett said.

Finally, they hope this can be a collaborative event that continues to grow. 

“As much as our goal is to make space for people in these communities, we also want people to be making a space,” said Castles. “Let’s create this together.” 

They explained how the organizing process was super collaborative.

After each of these women separately had a desire to start this night, the ALI Operations Coordinator Emily Abrams, helped put them all together and guide them through the steps of making this night a reality. 

Hassett was responsible for scheduling meetings and reaching out to local businesses, Castles focused on creating what she called a “baller presentation” and Wells was in charge of making the creative posters.

Hasset also reached out to the Valley Rock Gym for advice on how to start their own inclusive climb night. However, they hope to achieve different goals by targeting the student population to build a community within the already established school setting.

After jumping through a number of technical hoops with Dixon mainly regarding advertising for the event, and working with the ALI the event finally came together. 

Because this night is creating a space for communities that are typically in the minority in the climbing gym, the organizers explained that people from outside these communities are discouraged from attending. They will not be offered free shoe rentals, and will be asked to climb another night. 

The organizers are excited about the energy building around this event and are hyped to create this inclusive space with the people who show up!

None of the three organizers were managers or in high positions when they had this idea, they just worked in the area and wanted to make something happen. They hope this can be an inspiration for other people to start similar events. 

“We want this to be the beginning of having more inclusive events like this,” Castles said.