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Hidden just past the Reno arch, lies an extraordinary community of climbers, adventurers and friends. The University of Nevada, Reno’s Climbing Club, the largest club on campus, calls BaseCamp at Whitney Peak its home—a fitting venue for a group all about surpassing limits and fostering deep connections. 

Emily Hess/Nevada Sagebrush
Overview of BaseCamp Reno

Under the guidance of Garrett Pettipiece and Michael Soder, co-presidents of the organization, the club has become a sanctuary for students seeking challenge, camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment.

“Climbing is a way to decompress and relax after a day of hard work,” Marc Walter, a member of the club, said. “Having friends in the club makes it so much better,”

The club gathers every Monday and Wednesday, turning these evenings into sessions of growth and support. From observing one of the practices, it’s clear this is no ordinary club activity. 

Members, ranging from beginners to advanced climbers, engage in bouldering, a type of rock climbing done on small rock formations or artificial walls without ropes or harnesses; top-roping, a climbing method where the climber is secured with a rope running from a belayer at the bottom up to an anchor at the top of the climb; lead climbing, which involves the climber ascending a route while periodically attaching the rope to protection points along the way, creating potential for longer falls than in top roping — each according to their skill level and comfort. 

Photo Credit Augusta Ward
Climbing Club Co-President Michael Soder brushes climbing hold before beginning the climb

The environment is charged with positive energy, as shouts of encouragement and clouds of chalk fill the air, and climbers coach each other through difficult routes.

At BaseCamp, the focus is often on bouldering, a style of climbing which offers a unique blend of physical challenge and mental puzzle-solving. Newcomers to the sport quickly learn while the gear list is minimal, the requirements for success are not.

Essential equipment includes climbing shoes, designed to provide crucial grip on even the smallest holds, and chalk, to keep hands dry for optimal friction. The club ensures beginners have access to these essentials, demystifying the sport and making it accessible to all interested students.

Emily Hess/Nevada Sagebrush
Member of climbing club puts on climbing shoes

The club also places a strong emphasis on safety, education and environmental stewardship. Through workshops and seminars, members learn about climbing ethics, conservation practices and advanced techniques, ensuring they are not only capable climbers but also responsible members of the wider climbing community.

What sets the Nevada Climbing Club apart is not just the climbing, but the bonds formed between members. The club is a hub for social interaction, where friendships are forged in the crucible of shared challenges and triumphs. Events outside of climbing, including social gatherings, workshops and outdoor adventures, serve to strengthen these connections, creating a community extending beyond the walls of BaseCamp.

Photo Credit Lindsay Burback

Dania McGinn shares her experience with the climbing club and with BaseCamp, as she’s an employee there as well. 

“Climbing club is super sick,” McGinn said, “it’s such a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills. Being an employee here at Basecamp, I work with them alot to teach them rope skills, bouldering, teaching them how to fall properly. It creates such a cool community to learn new things.”

Pettipiece and Soder are more than just leaders; they are the heart of the club, dedicated to creating an environment where every member feels valued and supported. 

Photo Credit Augusta Ward
Co-President Garrett Pettipiece on the Moon Board wall at BaseCamp Reno

“Climbing really taught me a lot about a sense of worth,” Pettipiece said. “You get to see yourself evolve on the wall, which is pretty incredible. Plus, doing it with my friends has made it such an integral part of my life. We’re all in it together, pushing through, growing, and having a blast. It’s more than just climbing; it’s about growing together and realizing what we’re capable of.”

Soder shares this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of community and mutual growth. 

“When I joined the climbing club, the officers on board were very open and welcoming to me and it catapulted my relationships in college,” Soder said. “So I just wanted to pass that on.” 

To many, including Soder, climbing is a multi-faceted part of their lives and not just a workout. 

“The best part about climbing is it’s an exercise regime while also getting a chance to be social,” Soder said. “So it satisfies two things at once.”

Emily Hess/Nevada Sagebrush
Olivia Zoll, member of Nevada Climbing Club, wipes chalk off her hands before beginning a climb

The true essence of the Nevada Climbing Club lies in its members’ stories and experiences.  

“I love climbing club because of the community,” Hannah Jablonka, a member of the club, said. “I have met so many amazing people here and even though I’m not the best at climbing, you’ll always find the most supportive people no matter what level you’re at.” 

Joshua Chinowsky explains his love for climbing comes from the  problem solving aspects of climbing. 

“I think of it like a puzzle,” Chinowsky said, ”Once you finish a problem when everyone is cheering you on, you just get such a boost.” 

Photo Credit Augusta Ward
Marc Walter, member of Nevada Climbing Club, on the short wall at BaseCamp Reno

These testimonies highlight the transformative impact of the club, not just in terms of climbing skills, but in life skills such as perseverance, confidence and the value of community.

Looking ahead, the Nevada Climbing Club is poised for even greater heights. With an unwavering commitment to inclusivity and community, its leaders and members are eager to welcome new climbers into the fold, tackle new challenges and continue making a positive impact on the lives of its members.

Emily Hess can be reached via email at or via Twitter @emilyghess03

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