I moved to Washington D.C. in December 2022 from Chicago, where I am from. I took up indoor rock climbing in August 2022 as a way to work through some difficult emotions following the hospitalization and loss of my father. In Chicago, the gyms have several auto-belays so it was easy to rock climb as a workout more than a social activity.
When I moved to DC, I joined DC Bouldering Project but found that it was really easy to isolate myself as bouldering can become a single person sport rather than a group sport. I saw one of Soul Trak’s posters at DC Bouldering Projects and started following them on Instagram, which is where I saw the post for the Outdoor Climbing Club.
What made the Spring Outdoor Climbing Club special for me was that it helped me out of my shell. I am genuinely an extroverted person, but as I was navigating through lots of life and environmental changes, the climbing club helped me develop a routine that I looked forward to attending.
There are many things that made the Spring Cohort unique. First was being able to share an interest in something new with a group of people with the same likeness as me. As a BIPOC woman in a STEM field, it amazes me how rare I feel represented in the spaces I frequently navigate. What I also loved about the group was that it was mix of people with different experience levels in climbing. Some had only been boulder-ers, some had never climbed outside, some were nervous about indoor and outdoor climbing, and some had been climbing for an extensive amount of time. We all encouraged one another to try something new, and to help one another face fears and unknowns.
The third thing that made this experience unique was the ability to stay in contact with one another with the use of GroupMe. As an adult, it becomes increasingly more difficult to make new friends outside of institutions. Soul Trak made it possible to break the ice among one another by encouraging us to use the app GroupMe. I used the app to join other climbing excursions initiated by Tim and Uche and explored a range of climbing locations outside of our scheduled Climbing Club.
The volunteers made it very comfortable to learn from. Shoutout to Tim and Uche for their dedication to the cohort and for providing a safe space for us to be ourselves. And to the Sportrock Climbing Guides, Eduardo, Pat, Holden and the rotating crew, teaching us new techniques and safety protocols. They’ve all inspired me to take on a deeper interest in climbing, so much so that I went out and purchased my own climbing rope, gear, and books, so that I could continue climb on my own time while doing so safely.
The other cohort participants have now become friends of mine. I looked forward to seeing their familiar faces every other week. And now that the Spring Climbing Club has come to an end, I have kept in contact with some of my peers and have developed friendships which seemed so daunting of a task before joining Soul Trak. A couple of us have spoken about signing up for the fall session, so that we may further develop our comfort level in outdoor climbing and will continue to take advantage of as many Soul Trak events as possible!