Climbing to the Top: GDS’s Climbing Team

The middle of November marked the beginning of the climbing season for 36 GDS students. Three days a week, these students bus to Rockville and spend two hours scaling carefully laid out walls in Earth Treks Climbing Center. Although it currently serves as a club and not a sport, the climbing team functions in very much the same way that one would expect a GDS sports team to function. It meets for several hours five days a week and competes with other schools.

Still, there are very rational barriers holding it from the GDS sports program. After all, climbing is not an ISL or MAC sport, though the team does participate in the Washington Area Inter School Climbing League (WAICL) with ten other independent schools. Because the team does not participate in the ISL or the MAC, it is impossible for climbing to be added to the roster of official GDS sports.

GDS Athletic Director Kathy Hudson supports the sport but agrees it cannot be part of GDS’s athletic program because it is not technically an ISL or MAC sport. Still, GDS provides more support for climbing than many other schools do.

“There is a win here because you guys are still participating,” Hudson said.

Additionally, the sport brings great joy to those who participate in it. Students have various reasons for their involvement in the climbing community. Freshman Ben Freedman is one of the new rising stars on the team. He has been climbing competitively for two or three years now and loves the sport.

Freedman said that he loves “the mental challenge, the physical challenge, and a combination of the two,” and adores the community.

“Even though most of climbing is falling, it’s satisfying to finally complete something,” he said.

Freshman Oakley Winters, who has only climbed for three years, loves the sport for similar reasons. “I found it to be really enjoyable and relaxing but also challenging,” Winters said.

This year is also a new year for the coach. Ethan Burns, a middle school science teacher, was an assistant coach for the first time last year. Now that Nathan Vish, the previous coach and former math teacher, has left the program, Burns has become the head coach. Burns has loved climbing since college, where he first picked up the sport.

“Climbing was always a way to get outside and to see things, spend time with people, challenge myself physically, mentally, emotionally,” Burns said.

Burns said he cherishes the fact that climbing is not an official varsity sport. He said that it gives the team certain privileges and the freedom to chart their own path.

He explains, “We get to create our own traditions that are different from the athletic program at GDS.”

By Adam Leff ’22