Photo courtesy of Mike Tabor
Imagine being hoisted up 1,200 feet in the air and realizing you don’t have enough rope to rappel down to the bottom.
For a brief instant, this was a position that Ohio State Mountaineer Club adviser David Barker found himself in while rappelling down Mount Kenya in 1990, the highest mountain in Kenya.
Barker, originally from New Zealand and an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at OSU, said he has almost always been interested in mountaineering.
“If you don’t have any fear of heights you could tend to be reckless,” Barker said. “What you got to do is not fear, but turn it into respect, so you respect the height. You have to be very meticulous and methodical.”
During the last meeting of the school year, Barker enlightens club members with stories of various trips he has taken.
He made his way down safely from Mount Kenya. He is in his 10th year as adviser to the club.
“The success is not getting to the top,” Barker said. “The success is getting to the bottom.”
The OSU Mountaineers Club prides itself on promoting anything outdoors.
The club plans trips every quarter, from rock climbing at the Red River Gorge canyon in Kentucky to reaching the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire with temperatures less than zero.
Club members also hike, climb, cave, kayak and of course mountaineer. The club is full of rock climbing enthusiasts.
Vice President Matt Hasenohr said that when he goes on climbs, he knows what he is doing is 100 percent safe.
“I’ll be hanging off the ledge at 400 feet with the land below me,” Hasenohr said. “There are different types of climbing where you’ll take falls from 15 to 20 feet, but it’s safe, you do practice that.”
Club President Mike Tabor said people who rock climb need to trust their gear before anything else, and that comes from the experience of falling.
One of the larger trips the club took this year was to Moab, Utah, featuring hiking and rock climbing. Tabor said the area is well known for world-class mountain biking as well.
“There is a place called the Fiery Furnace (in Moab),” Tabor said. “The soil is live; it is cryptobiotic, so you can’t actually touch it. It is a maze of rocks, but you can’t touch the ground, so you have to hop from rock to rock.”
Cryptobiotic soil is found in many arid regions and contains large amounts of bacteria and algae.
Tabor said taking trips like this isn’t for everybody, but it takes somebody that isn’t reckless and can live on basic needs.
“You might have water, you might have shelter, you might need to build it,” Tabor said. “Somebody that doesn’t need the comforts of home.”
The club has a variety of members.
“The majority are beginners,” Hasenohr said. “Then we have people in the club that have done guiding professionally for other companies.”
Hasenohr said he came into the group as a freshman and didn’t know much about the art of rock climbing. He said there is a lot of knowledge in the club and being involved is like being in a class.
“Most people go out and pay $100 for a one-day class to learn how to rock climb,” Hasenohr said. “We can go out for free and teach you how to do that.”
Hasenohr led a group of 12 people out to the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada in December. One of the club’s goals is being able to gain enough expertise to lead a group, Hasenohr said.
“In just over about a year, I’ve gone from basic rock climbing experience to pretty advanced technical skills to be able to lead people safely,” Hasenohr said.
Hasenohr said the thing he enjoys most about the club is the people involved and the places it takes you.
“When you go on a trip there is that camaraderie,” Hasenohr said. “You just make lifelong friends within the group.”
Being involved with the club could be compared to a guided independent study and is all about networking, Tabor said.
“I learned to climb from guys that were in the club before me,” Tabor said. “Especially what gear to buy, and what they suggest, obviously you tailor it to yourself.”
The end of the school year won’t stop the group from taking another adventure. The club is planning a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine during the middle of the summer.