“Women on the Wall” fosters inclusivity among women climbers

Aleya Reinke climbs using only her legs and feet at the Inland Wall during Women on the Wall on Sept. 12, 2018. Reinke, a current first-year student at UMD, has been climbing ever since she her sophomore year of high school when she joined the climbing club. Photo by Morgan Pint

Aleya Reinke climbs using only her legs and feet at the Inland Wall during Women on the Wall on Sept. 12, 2018. Reinke, a current first-year student at UMD, has been climbing ever since she her sophomore year of high school when she joined the climbing club. Photo by Morgan Pint

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story listed the wrong date for the event. It has since been corrected.

Every Wednesday this fall semester from 8-10 p.m., RSOP’s “Women on the Wall” program takes place at the Inland Wall in the Sports and Health Center.

This weekly event is aimed at providing climbing instruction for female-identifying people in a space just for them. To make this more easily accessible, this program is completely free with gear provided at the climbing wall and does not require prior registration. Also, no climbing experience is needed and all instruction is done by fellow female students.

Due to this event taking place at the Inland Climbing Wall, which is tucked into a room next to the ice rink, more privacy is given as well.

The people in charge of the event strive for creating a safe space for female-identifying people to climb, whether or not they have experience doing so.

Emma McLarnan, one of the eight instructors for the program and current senior at UMD, enjoys helping women learn how to climb in a “safe space.”

Emma McLarnan taking a climbing course while studying abroad in England in Spring 2018. McLarnan is a climbing instructor for RSOP and likes Women on the Wall because it allows for women climbers to face their fears in a “safe place.” Photo courtesy of Emma McLarnan

Emma McLarnan taking a climbing course while studying abroad in England in Spring 2018. McLarnan is a climbing instructor for RSOP and likes Women on the Wall because it allows for women climbers to face their fears in a “safe place.” Photo courtesy of Emma McLarnan

“Personally, I know coming down to the wall can be pretty intimidating,” McLarnan said. “I think it’s a pretty challenging thing to get over those fears. So, having this safe space and lower intimidation is pretty cool. I’ve definitely got to experience a lot of women and female-identifying people coming down to the wall and saying they enjoy it.”

UMD student Andie Zuelke was a participant of Women on the Wall on Sept. 12, 2018. Zuelke agreed with McLarnan on the welcoming atmosphere provided by this on-going program.

“It’s really open,” Zuelke said. “The instructors are really supportive and I feel safe doing it.”

Andie Zuelke is belayed down after climbing to the top of the Inland Wall during Women on the Wall on Sept. 12, 2018. At this event, women would cheer and clap for the climbers who overcame tough obstacles while climbing. Photo by Morgan Pint

Andie Zuelke is belayed down after climbing to the top of the Inland Wall during Women on the Wall on Sept. 12, 2018. At this event, women would cheer and clap for the climbers who overcame tough obstacles while climbing. Photo by Morgan Pint

She has been climbing once before and does not consider herself an experienced climber. However, that did not stop her from reaching the top of the wall when she ascended the wall.

Another UMD student taking charge at this event was Aleya Reinke. Unlike Zuelke, Reinke is an avid climber. She has been scaling cliff walls for the past three years and is not slowing down. Reinke will be joining North Shore Climbing Club this year.

“Women can be just as good of climbers as men,” Reinke said. “It’s as much of a mental sport as it is physical, if not more mental.”

She proved that when she decided to ascend the wall without using her hands or arms once and relied solely on her legs and feet.

Women students at UMD have been given this opportunity since the Women on the Wall program originally started in the 1990s, according to climbing coordinator Lucas Kramer.

Kramer said that Women on the Wall is one of the longest running and consistent events offered in RSOP’s climbing programs and believes it is not necessarily a coincidence.

“The three directors prior to me were wonderful, amazing and strong women,” Kramer said. “I believe [Women on the Wall] was started by my predecessor, Kaija Webster. She started it, because she, rightfully so, felt there was a need to provide a safe place for women in particular to explore climbing and try climbing outside the influence of various prying eyes and pressures of social expectations.”

Kramer is proud of what this program stands for and believes in the importance of providing a safe, inclusive space for people wishing to climb.

“Fundamentally, us here at the climbing wall believe that climbing is for everyone,” Kramer said.

RSOP is also doing a women’s outdoor series where there will be a climbing event on Oct. 20, 2018, that costs $6 for students.