Live the high life with UM rock climbers

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Abigail Blumenfeld, a fourth-year architecture student, belays the rope for junior Kim Vermer as she scales the rock wall at X-Treme Rock Climbing. UM’s rock climbing club meets every Friday. Rachel Korotkin // Contributing Photographer

Florida isn’t exactly known for its rocky terrain, but the University of Miami has a well-established rock climbing club.

Senior Drew Hughes, the club president, has been involved with the club since high school.

“I am a commuter student so this was a great way to branch out and meet new people,” he said.

Hughes enjoys rock climbing because it is a fairly laid back sport that also provides an intense workout. Climbing works out muscles in both the arms and legs and because it is a strategic sport, it stimulates the brain.

Frankie Pereda, a recent graduate, joined the club during his junior year to try something new. He was able to balance climbing with a rigorous engineering class load and commitment to marching band.

He still enjoys climbing even though he is no longer a student.

“For me, rock climbing is the best way to work out,” he said. “It works everything. It is fun, engaging and keeps me interested.”

The club has about 70 active members, and no experience is necessary to join. Lessons are included in the club dues so that new students can learn to climb, and experienced students can improve their skills.

“We accommodate everyone from green to veteran,” Hughes said about the club’s open membership.

Another opportunity afforded to club members is rock climbing competition. The club competes with other Florida schools including FSU, UF, UCF and USF.

The different schools visit each other’s home gym and the students attempt to complete a planned course. Judges watch participants and declare a winner based on how far the climbers progress and how frequently they fall. Hughes is trying to generate more interest in competition because the University of Miami has a comparatively small team.

“Competitions are a good opportunity for people to pass what they thought they could do,” Hughes said.

The club also takes trips to places like Alabama and Kentucky so students can experience climbing on natural rock features.

Al Rose, the faculty advisor for the club, has made rock climbing a friendly affair.

When a student is climbing, another student will belay, or hold the rope attached to the harness so members get to know each other.

“It’s just fun,” Rose said. “A lot of friendships are developed.”

The club meets Fridays at 5 p.m. and carpools from Mahoney Residential College to X-Treme Rock Climbing, an indoor facility that was once an aircraft hangar.

Membership dues are $50 per semester or $90 for the year, which allows students to climb anytime on their own.

The first climb is free.

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