Just beyond the obscure entrance of the South Austin Rock Gym, a narrow hallway leads into another world: a cave of rock walls, pulsing with the energy of determined climbers, groovy music and a settling smog of chalk dust. This is where UT's Rock Climbing Team perfects its sport, scaling giant walls of sediment with nothing but bare hands and determination.
Story and Photos by Kali Miller
Coached by John Myrick, a 44-year climbing veteran, the UT Austin Rock Climbing Team spends a lot of time at the two Austin rock gyms, mastering challenging routes and encouraging each other as a group. The time spent practicing surely paid off; in the three years that the club has been recognized as a UT Sport Club, the team has won regionals three times and nationals twice. Apart from weekdays spent practicing at the Austin Rock Gyms, the team engages in an intensive weekend practice and often climbs together in the outdoors. Motivations to climb vary among members, but they all share a common love for the rising sport. Meet a few faces behind the dynamic team.
Katie Dean, Freshman
For Katie Dean, rock climbing was completely new. “Cheerleading didn’t work out at UT so I decided to try something new, and I’m pretty good,” the 19-year-old from San Angelo shares. In the fall, Dean participated in a competition called Texas Flexes held by the Texas Rock Climbing team at the North Austin gym. This was a bouldering, or rope-free, competition in which competitors earned points based on the difficulty level of each route completed.
Gil Moss, Graduate Student
For Gil Moss, climbing isn’t quite so new. Moss, a graduate student studying math, has been climbing for 14 years. He says his initiation into the sport was quite simple. "Me and my brother went to the gym and figured it out,” he explains. Moss states that when it comes to climbing, there’s more to it than the physical challenge. “There’s a mental aspect — managing adrenaline when you’re up high. You’re excited and you want to go hard, but you don’t want to fall.” Moss partcipated in one competition last spring and is looking forward to spring competition. His favorite part of competing? “When you work hard, you see the fruits of your labor.”
Cedrich Gimestra, Sophomore
Cedrich Gimestra, a sophomore studying molecular biology, got into climbing during high school. Cedrich climbed on his own at Gregory gym before trying out for the club team. For Cedrich, climbing is a good release from the stress of school, but the best part is being surrounded by such great people. Gimestra's tip for climbing? “The trick is you have to trust your hands and feet," he says. Easier said than done.
Joey Anthony, Graduate Student
Joey Anthony, 23, who is currently earning a Master’s degree in engineering, has been climbing for three to four years and just recently got back into it after struggling with a dislocated shoulder. He says it’s great to be back. "Whenenver I climb I forget about everything else,” he says. Anthony enjoys working on challenging routes with friends and “playing with beta,” which is, in essence, finding techniques to master the characteristics of each unique route. “You may have a lot of people at the boulder all trying different ways—it’s fun to work on it together,” Anthony says.
Britta Jaschke, Grad Student
26-year-old Britta Jaschke, who is currently attending Pharmacy school, has been enamored with rock climbing for 6 years. Rock climbing was introduced into Jaschke’s life as her dad's hobby, and after gaining interest it became a hobby of her own. Jaschke loves the physical challenge and enjoys being around a bunch of motivated people, and being outside. Jaschke competed in the Texas Flexes competition, but the majority of her climb time is spent outdoors, at places like Ryhmer’s Ranch or Roger’s Park.
“Rock climbing used to be rebel and is now becoming mainstream,” Jaschke acknowledges, in regard to the changing culture of the sport. Many aspects of the sport—the adrenaline, control, comraderie and outdoorsy feel make rock climbing attractive. As the sport gains popularity, more fearless individuals will learn more about the culture of climbing as they put their minds and bodies to the test. In the meantime, the Texas Rock Climbing Team will continue to climb their way to the top.