Telluride Middle School’s Climbing Gymnasium is seeing its first action in over a year, as San Miguel County previously used the gymnasium for the storage of COVID-19 vaccines. But in November, the gymnasium was cleaned up and the adventurous members of the Telluride Middle / High School Climbing Club used the gymnasium for its original purpose.
The club – which was under the umbrella of several organizations, including Telluride Academy – has officially become an official school club, said Chris Murray, district athletic director. He credits volunteer coaches Dave Chew and Dave Nesis as the main motivators behind this change.
“Nesis and Chew were both the driving forces behind the school district which made this activity an extra activity for our students,” Murray explained.
Superintendent John Pandolfo clarified that the club is not an official sport under the district sports program, but “it is true that it sits in a gray area between the club and the sport”.
Chew, a local climber and avid Telluride climber, volunteered as a rock climbing trainer for over a decade in various organizations.
“The school tries to unify everything under one roof and then understand from there. The school has helped us to really solidify the program. It feels pretty safe and long term now, and that was the goal, ”he said.
Fourth grade teacher Sue Hehir has become the club’s official school godmother. Teacher sponsors are required for all school clubs. While Hehir is the “official sponsor”, she praised Chew and Nesis as the true pioneers of the club.
“It’s the coaches and the reason it’s happening. The kids love these guys, and they’ve rounded up a bunch of other motivated climbers to become coaches and inspire our students to find the love of rock climbing, ”Hehir said.
There are many benefits to the school in adding the rock climbing club as an official activity, such as responsibility and transportation. It also opens up more options regarding the use of the facilities, Murray said.
Chew and Nesis helped start the club long before it became a formal school activity. About 11 years ago, Nesis and Chew were volunteering for Telluride Academy and noticed that after they were done with the younger ones in the gym, the high school kids would come in and start climbing on their own without much guidance.
At first, Chew explained, they just spent time with the kids and taught them the basics of rock climbing and safety protocol. After a while more and more children started to show up and Chew approached the school to make it a club.
“Initially, I was just someone who showed people the skills to go out and do it with your friends in a safe and secure way. A few years later, we started to get into competitive climbing and the competitive side of the sport, ”Chew mentioned.
In March 2020, together with the whole world, the gymnasium was closed. Chew and Nesis unofficially maintained the club and climbed with students outside on Ophir’s Wall and around Telluride.
“It was cool,” Chew said, “because all the kids came back to the gym with a different perspective on what rock climbing is, as a sport and a lifelong passion.”
To reopen the gymnasium earlier, members of the climbing club, along with Chew and Nesis, helped prepare the gymnasium for rock climbing. Together, they rebuilt part of the wall, put up climbing mats and put up ropes.
To date, the club has about 25 members. The number fluctuates frequently due to all the other activities and sports the children of Telluride are involved in, Chew explained.
One of Chew’s favorite things about the club is seeing the kids graduate from high school, leave Telluride, then come back and help teach new climbers.
“Now we have a group of kids who did well out of college and went back to Telluride and help us train the climbing team. It’s cool to see the loop come full circle,” Chew said.
At the moment, the club is one of the only groups to use the climbing room. In the past, other organizations have used it for various activities and clubs. Pandolfo explained why the climbing club has access to the gymnasium compared to other organizations.
“Because the climbing club is a school activity, it comes under our responsibility policy. Any outside organization should provide a Certificate of Insurance as part of the submission of a Facility Use Agreement. I understand that this can be difficult for some on the outside. organizations, ”Pandolfo said.
Telluride High School Senior Ayla Kanow is thrilled to be hitting the wall again and climbing again after the pandemic has closed. Although soccer is her main sport, she joined the rock climbing club to stay strong and fit during the offseason and to join “a new community of athletes”.
“I am so happy that this club is back up and running after COVID because it is such a great group of students who share a love for where we grew up. It really teaches us all about leadership, respect and persistence, ”Kanow said. noted. “I have gained some great mentors and hope to become a mentor to some of the younger climbers.”