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Spring 2002

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Ropes? Rocks? Ready!

     “Hot dogs over an open fire and seven blankets on the ground are the Outing Club enthusiasts’ idea of a perfect week-end.” —caption in Eromdiks (1942).
     That was then. Nowadays, Eromdiks shows a student snowboarding above a mountain slope or waving from the top of a high climbing wall. “We’re known as the club that will do anything,” says Skidmore Outing Club (SOC) president Kelly Harkins ’04. And she does mean anything, from friendly snowball fights on Case Green to thrill-a-minute whitewater rafting on the upper Hudson.
Edward Merrick '03 and Glen Gibson '01 tackle an ice slope on an Outing Club expedition.
     “Some people in SOC just want to relax, go hiking or canoeing, and commune with nature,” says Harkins. Others prefer winter camping in the high peaks, rock climbing, or backcountry ski-tripping, where “first you hike up the mountain, then you ski or snowboard down it,” explains Jason Smith ’03, an art major from Colorado and the club’s alpine-sports officer. Says Harkins,“We do snowshoeing, caving, day trips, weekends, whatever people want.”
     What a lot of people want lately is rock climbing, adds Harkins, a music and anthropology major who did her first climb during Rock & River, the Skidmore pre-orientation program that SOC coordinates. She did it again in her sophomore year as a student leader for the three-day program of Adirondack rafting, canoeing, camping, and climbing. “We set up several fifty-foot climbs and one hundred-foot climb,” explains Harkin, who’s working toward certification by the American Mountain Guide Association. “We teach everyone how to belay. We teach them all the calls and signals, the handholds and toeholds, and how to duck falling rocks. We make sure the ropes are tied properly and that everyone wears helmets all the time.”
     Need ropes, helmets, or other gear? The club has equipment to lend. “Outdated equipment wouldn’t be safe,” says Harkins, so much of the club’s $15,000 budget goes into rock-climbing ropes and carabiners, cross-country skis, snowshoes, crampons, sleeping bags, backpacks, and sleds. And kayaks, too, if Alex Wolff ’04 gets his way. An education major, Skidmore News editor, and SOC’s water-sports officer, Wolff believes that, with the new, small kayaks he’s eyeing, rodeo kayaking (don’t even ask) could become as big as rock-climbing.
     This go-get-’em approach to the great outdoors makes the Outing Club very big on campus. An 800-member e-mail list receives weekly highlights of what’s coming up; the rock-climbing list alone is fifty strong. Many are aficionados for whom climbing is a year-round sport, with intercollegiate competitions, trips to “the ’Gunks”—the Shawangunk Mountains downstate—and plenty of thrills.
      “At one moment, on a 300-foot climb last spring, I was sitting on an eight-inch ledge about ninety feet off the ground—just kind of weaseled in on it,” says Jason Smith, his eyes dancing. “After we rappelled down, I thought, ‘That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done.’ But the scarier it is, the more focused I am. It’s such a release. Give me two hours of climbing and I’m ready for anything.” —BAM


© 2002 Skidmore College