For some, the Coronavirus pandemic has prevented people from doing the things they love. For the Oyster River Climbing group, it has given them the opportunity to discover new activities.
Oyster River Climbing is a new community of local students that began climbing regularly just this past summer. This spring, they’re starting an official school club, offered to anybody interested in joining. Climbing, both indoor on a rock wall or outdoors on actual boulders, is an activity that benefits both mental and physical health, but one of the best parts about it is the community aspect.
Silas Twickler (‘21), who helped start the club with Oyster River English teacher Shawn Kelly, didn’t start climbing until last August. “I started climbing at the Wiswall boulder that’s by my house, and just spent a few hours doing some easy climbs,” said Twickler. Once he gained some interest, he got some friends involved.
Aidan Janetos (‘21), a friend of Twickler, began roughly a month later, when he went to Indoor Ascent, an indoor climbing gym in Dover, NH. Now, both Twickler and Janetos are regulars. “I probably climb 2-4 times a week either at Indoor Ascent or outside at Pawtuckaway if weather is permitting,” said Janetos.
After months of climbing with each other, the community wants to expand and share their passion with other students who are interested. Twickler hopes that the club will “build a wider community of climbers within Oyster River, as well as a place for people to get out and socialize during the pandemic.” They hope to introduce the activity to others who have not yet tried it.
While this will allow students to get out and explore a new activity, as well as be able to socialize with others in a small community setting, they hope they’ll also be able to add a competitive element. “I hope to build a team of climbers that hopefully will compete in some events and hopefully have the club continue well after I’m out of high school,” said Twickler.
Climbing regularly has been a huge mental boost for Twickler, especially during the pandemic. “When climbing you experience a flow state, where you are solely focused on the moment and the holds ahead of you. While climbing, all your stress fades away because if you stop to think about what you were stressing about, odds are, you’re falling off the wall,” said Twickler.
Janetos has had a similar experience, saying, “during quarantine, climbing has given me escape from a normal routine. I’ve found that after I climb I leave happier and with more energy then I entered with.”
Climbing can certainly be beneficial for one’s mental health, but it also improves physical health. According to Adventure HQ, an indoor climbing gym in Florida, climbing can greatly improve physical coordination, flexibility, cardiovascular health and physical strength. Forearm and finger strength are two of the biggest gains that one gets from climbing, as it takes a super strong grip to climb difficult routes.
While climbing is beneficial for both your mental and physical health, there are many other things that make it enjoyable. “There’s so many aspects of it I enjoy, from the people you meet, to the feeling of freedom, as well as the satisfaction after sending a project, or even the feeling you get after topping out a highball. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d probably say the process of bettering oneself, the serotonin from sending something you didn’t dream you could do a few months ago is addicting,” said Twickler.
Being able to improve is something most climbers really enjoy and focus a lot on. The difficulty on each route in an indoor climbing gym, as well as outdoor boulders are described using the “V-scale.” For example, the easiest climbs are V0 and V1, and it progressively gets harder, all the way to V16. Most climbers are constantly pushing themselves to complete harder routes, and set goals for themselves.
“When I started climbing I set an unrealistic goal of climbing V10 in my first year, I’m 7 months in and climb V7, and came extremely close to sending a V8 before it was taken down. I still hope to climb V10 in my first year. However, I’m still going to be stoked if I get even close,” said Twickler.
Many others, such as Janetos, focus more on enjoying the activity itself. “Personally I have certain goals on grades I want to climb by certain times, but in general, I honestly don’t really care too much about the grades, I just really enjoy climbing.”
Before the club began, “Oyster River Climbing” got its start as an Instagram account, with 5 active members who would post photos and videos of themselves improving. The members include Twickler, Janetos, Aidan Covell (‘21), John Kell (‘21), and Corum Nichols (‘21).The account inspired many others, including myself, to go out and give climbing a try. Now, the account has over 100 followers and includes many videos showing huge improvement of the 5 climbers. If you’re interested in checking out the account, the username is @oysterriver_climbing.
During the winter, most climbers stay indoors. However as the weather starts to get warmer, innumerable opportunities arise. “I like climbing outside more, and would rather be at Pawtuckaway than Indoor Ascent,” said Twickler. There are many local spots, such as Patuckaway, Wiswall, and other smaller spots in Lee, that are enjoyable for climbers of all abilities. For those willing to make the drive, the White Mountains contains tons of different boulders to climb. Currently, for indoor climbing, Indoor Ascent in Dover is the only indoor climbing gym on the Seacoast.
When asked why someone should consider climbing, Janetos said, “I encourage people to climb because I think it’s a great way to better mental and physical health while finding creative solutions to problems with your friends!”
Twickler added, “I encourage people to climb because it has helped me with everything. From making me be in the best shape of my life to being a great coping mechanism for stress, I think everyone or almost everyone can gain or learn something from climbing and I hope others will have the same experience that I did.”