Rock Climbers Defy Gravity at Friction Fest


On Saturday, March 31, St. Mary’s annual spring rock climbing competition, Friction Fest, was held at the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC). Kids, students, and non-students alike competed on Saturday to earn top scores in the various climbing divisions.

“[Friction Fest] has been going on for six years, since the wall’s been up,” said junior and Climbing Club president Bridget Dahmer. “There are a few divisions: kids, open (everyone who’s not a student), men’s and women’s recreational, and men’s and women’s advanced.”

Climbers are scored on a scoring system that awards fewer points for easier climbs and more points for the more advanced ones. “We take the the top four scores of each person and we add those up, and whoever has the highest score wins for their division,” said Dahmer. “You get points for completing the climb, which just means getting to the top.”

Climbers must be accompanied by a spotter at all times while they are climbing. The spotter watches the climber’s head, making sure he or she is staying safe. Also, the spotter signs off on whether or not the climber has completed the climb.

Normally, there are about five students who work as route setters. These are the people who place the rocks on the walls and set up the climbs. Rocks are marked with various different colors of tape to indicate which climb they belong to.

Each year, a guest setter visits for Friction Fest. This year’s guest setter was Dan Montague, brother of first-year Pat Montague. “[Dan] won the 2011 Everyman’s Exposed photo contest in the Rock and Ice magazine. He’s also been a setter at Earth Treks for a year,” said Pat Montague.

Dahmer and Pat Montague are two of the students who are normally route setters at the ARC.

When asked about his participation in Friction Fest, senior Kenneth Doutt said, “This is the third semester I’ve done it… I’ve been climbing for two years.” Doutt has won the Endurance Award at Friction Fest previously, meaning he climbed the most climbs. “I did 19 climbs last time.”

“I’ve done it almost every year since freshman year,” said senior Tessa Endter. “I started climbing [at St. Mary’s]… This past semester, I’ve climbed almost every day… It’s really hard to do climbs [at Friction Fest] because there are so many people but it’s fun because you can work on things in really large groups and everyone gets really excited when you complete a climb.”

The winners in this year’s men’s advanced division were senior Chris Dipple in first place, Evan Heck in second place, and senior Dana Savage in third place. For women’s advanced, senior Katelyn Grue was in first place, Katie Savin-Murphy in second place, and senior Tessa Endter in third place.

“Everybody should participate in Friction Fest,” said Doutt. “It’s a unique opportunity that St. Mary’s has to offer.”