Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages piled into Arntzen Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 24 to hear stories from Western alumnus Blake Herrington and his climb to new heights.
Herrington graduated from Western in 2007 and went on to become a professional climber and self-published author. Since graduation, he’s been everywhere from Alaska to Argentina.
Currently living in Leavenworth, Herrington returns to Western often to discuss his climbing endeavors and encourage the outdoor community.
Herrington began his climbing career during his first few months of college. After buying a cheap set of gear, Herrington said he practiced by doing multiple rappels out of his dorm window in Mathes Hall, prompting campus security to be called a couple times. He also helped out friends that had been locked out of their rooms in the same manner.
A lack of resources, such as not having money, a car or a partner, should never stop students or new climbers from trying climbing, Herrington said. He said Craigslist and on-campus classified ads, as well as downtown’s Backcountry Essentials are good sources of low-priced gear.
Finding a partner can be done with resources such as www.mountainproject.com, a forum website where climbers can chat and guide one another in their endeavors.
“Just get out and keep meeting people in the community as much as you can,” Herrington said.
Flipping through a slideshow, Herrington displayed his various climbing expeditions through the North Cascades, Utah and Colorado.
Herrington told the audience about camping in the middle of the forest after a rainstorm. He tried to dry his wet clothes over a fire that ended up burning part of his pants off. He had to wear them again the next day, despite the damage.
Stephen Magnuson, program manager for Western’s Outdoor Center, works to put on events like Herrington’s in order to continue to support the people who came to Western for its location.
“A lot of students choose Western because of the access to the outdoors,” Magnuson said. “We’re really fostering an environment where those communities can thrive, get together, share experiences and build that camaraderie.”
The event also featured the public premiere of a 15-minute film Herrington is featured in. It centered on a 24-hour climbing experience in the North Cascades with friend Jens Holsten.
Junior Isabel Myers attended the event because she has recently considered making the transition to climbing outdoors as opposed to an indoor climbing gym.
“It sounds like it’s a lot easier than what I was expecting,” Myers said. “I always looked at it and [thought], ‘Oh my god, that’s terrifying.’”
Myers said her dad used to be a climber when he was younger. He took a hard fall which ended his career, so it intimidated her at first. She said Herrington made it seem much more accessible and left her inspired.
There are over two dozen new routes and first free-ascents featured in Herrington’s new guidebook, “Cascades Rock,” according to a review online by the American Alpine Institute.
The Outdoor Center and American Alpine Institute provide guided trips for a multitude of levels of experience and interests.