An open letter to Chris Christie

“”There’s no point in going climbing if you don’t enjoy the process. It should be like playing.”- Alex Honnold

Dear Chris Christie,

When you were in New Hampshire on August 28th, you made accusations and statements that were ambiguous and showcased the pure ignorance that you posses. During a rally for your presidency, you not only offended the majority of universities in the country, but you also offended the rock climbing community. You stated that the amount of rock climbing walls being built at universities is an epidemic. No, sir. HIV/AIDS is an epidemic. Rock climbing is a stress reliever, a mind relaxer and a way of life.

When you said, “You have rocks!… What the hell do you need a rock climbing wall for?” You see, I go to a university in the Fargo-Moorhead area in North West Minnesota. We are running a bit scarce on the amount of rock we can climb here. In fact, there are no rock faces or cliffs that we can ‘go climb’. The idea that everyone has rocks to climb upon is a bit unrealistic, so that is “why the hell” we need a rock climbing wall. Neighboring universities also have rock climbing walls which is a great feature because we can intermingle with other universities and engage in meaningful relationships over a common interest, which is something that many university presidents want and desire.

When I applied for schools 5 years ago, I did not decide on the university based on the rock wall. Frankly, I did not even know what rock climbing was or if I would enjoy it. It wasn’t until the first week of classes that I entered our climbing wall and was immediately hooked. I have not stopped since. Not many high schools have rock walls which means this is a new experience to many students. A university that has a rock wall promotes not only healthy habits but also the opportunity for students to engage in an activity that is new and exciting. Our rock wall has influenced many leadership opportunities; which is a parallel statement about other rock walls throughout the United States. We started a club on campus devoted to rock climbing. We developed a vision and a linked together passions to create the only club on campus to be awarded with the most school pride award. The only club to share their pride throughout the state. Mr. Christie, the experiences that we have had in this club and the life lessons that we have learned is by far more beneficial than the lessons we have learned in our college classes. This club has brought together multiple nationalities, experience levels, and personalities together. Isn’t that what college’s social purpose is? To expose their students to a multicultural environment that is inclusive to all? Mr. Christie, the rock climbing wall on our university has brought together our most shy individuals and allowed them to grow and become who they never thought they could be.

Rock climbing is not just about climbing a wall and trying to get to the top. Rock climbing is about finding the fears that are deep inside and allowing those fears to break free. Rock climbing allows a person be become one with the wall and lose the stress of the day. Climbers who climb with a heavy mind do not achieve as high as others who climb with a clear head. Huffington Post came out with an article a year ago that states,

“Some researchers suggest exercise be used to help treat a variety of mental illnesses, including addiction, depression and anorexia. But climbing itself has an extra trick up its sleeve:Climbers who totally lose themselves in the flow of the activity enter a mindset that can create a sense of euphoria and even block pain, according to Indiana University.”

The article also states that climbing boosts brain function and it teaches valuable life skills. Mr. Christie, wouldn’t you be impressed if your daughter had a calm place to get away from her studies for a while that wasn’t influenced by drugs, alcohol, or other college pressures? Wouldn’t you be impressed if a university provided a rock wall for your daughter to climb when she is so stressed she cannot look at another page of notes without crying? Mr. Christie, wouldn’t you be impressed if your daughter called you after climbing the rock wall for the first time and sounded excited and accomplished? Rock walls are popping up everywhere on universities throughout the United States because everyone is finally realizing the benefits that a climbing wall has for the university culture as well as student mental health. I don’t know about you, but I would fund a rock wall on a university campus before I funded a new football stadium, basketball courts, or even a water feature.

Mr. Christie, would you suggest to students, that have no knowledge about rock climbing, how to set anchors, tie knots, or belay, to “Go outside and climb those rocks” because “You have rocks, right out there”? Would you want students who have no idea what they are doing to set anchors and hope that they hold when someone else is climbing? I know I wouldn’t. I would rather climb in an area that I know is safe and that is checked on a daily basis to ensure total safety.

Mr. Christie, my challenge for you is to put on a harness and climb up a rock wall. I don’t want you to fail, I want you to understand. I want you to understand the zen that comes from climbing and the amount of trust and courage you need to get up that wall because I don’t think you personally understand the benefits that come when a climbing wall is put on a university campus.


A Climber