By Lisa Gray
What UCSB Adventure Programs has to offer is not just for solo outdoor enthusiasts; nearly all 14 adventure areas lend the perfect opportunity to try something new with a best friend or a group of friends. Within the last few years, for example, climbing with friends has grown in popularity. Visit the Climbing Center in the MAC on any given night and you might see a pair of friends like Moose Warren and Beth O’Connor, supporting each other up the rock wall.
“When we first started coming in here, everyone knew our names because we were the only girls climbing,” O’Connor said. “Now there are a lot of girls.”
Though most people might not consider rock climbing much of a break, athletes love it because it offers a new type of challenge, both physically and mentally.
“Someone once told me, ‘I think you’d like climbing—it’s a really nerdy sport,’” O’Connor said. “At first it was like, ‘what are you trying to say about me?!’ But now I totally understand. It’s a lot like a puzzle. You might not be able to move on to the next move unless you get your feet in the right place.”
The satisfaction of scaling the 30-foot rock wall isn’t purely from hoisting your body weight up foot by foot. It also comes from being able to “see” the proper path that will allow you to reach the top. Regardless of your skill level, the Climbing Center can always offer a harder challenge by rearranging the artificial holds. The design of the wall face itself can offer additional challenge—the easiest courses are perfectly vertical while the hardest courses force the climber to move upward and slopeaway from the base of the wall.
“It takes a lot of upper body strength,” O’Connor said. “You can get your feet on the holds, but they won’t always support you.”
While the steeper courses can be intensive on the arms, the Climbing Center staff and certified instructors are always keen on sharing tips and tricks to make climbing a reality for every student.
Of course, rock climbing isn’t the only option for any adventurist group. Warren and O’Connor reminisced about a few of their past Adventure Program experiences. Similar to rock climbing, canyoneering is the art of descending a canyon through a mixture of hiking and rappelling. Trips accommodate both novices and experts alike and may take participants anywhere from local San Ysidro trails (complete with waterfalls!) to canyons in Los Angeles.
“One time we got to rappel through a waterfall, literally through it,” O’Connor said. “It was huge! There was about 15 pounds of water coming down on our heads.”
Warren fondly remembered the perks of taking the Leadership Training Course, the class from which she was chosen to be a UCSB Adventure Program staff member.
“It’s so much fun because you meet so many cool people that share the same interests,” junior Warren said. “On the weekends you can just ask, ‘Who wants to take out a kayak and play in the surf zone with me?’”
The Leadership Training Course (LTC) allows dozens of UCSB students to experience backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, and more with all their friends. Leadership skills, risk management, and trip planning is also taught to students who want to continue on as staff members.
If it’s not a long-time commitment, but a one-time big group activity that you are looking for, Warren suggests the rope course, located in Rob Gym.
“It’s similar to an obstacle course, but above the ground,” Warren said. “We have lots of team building stuff like big leaps, where you jump off a platform and we catch you. We have big net bridges you can cross. We have a mini-climbing wall. And we have a zip-line, my personal favorite!”
Groups of all sorts have enjoyed the bonding effects, from UCSB teams and clubs to local community groups, young and old. As Warren described, there is something for everyone to enjoy and benefit from.
“Groups go in there and they do it, and they’re super excited,” Warren said. “They love it!”
Whether you are an expert or beginner, in a big group or a small group, and are looking for a one-time thrill or a quarter-long experience, there is an activity available for you to try. Warren and O’Connor are just two of the many UCSB Adventure Programs beneficiaries. Take a leaf out of their book: try a weekly date at the rock wall, and then treat yourself to a reward.
“Now for the best part of the evening,” O’Connor said. “Dinner!”
By Lisa Gray