“When there's a gritstone slab right in front of your face, and when all of the weight of your body is going through your toes on to a crystal sticking out of the rock, then it's hard to think about anything else other than trying not to slip and fall – and that's actually a really healthy thing.”
So says Ben Boys (Engineering 2016), a founder of the Gonville & Caius College Climbing Society.
Ben completed his undergraduate degree at Caius and is now undertaking a PhD in future infrastructure and the built environment, characterising delays in large infrastructure projects with his PhD sponsor, nPlan.
It was with colleagues in his laboratory at the Department of Engineering that he first began indoor climbing under a year ago. Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre, a city sports complex a short walk from Caius’ postgraduate accommodation hub and the Department where Ben works, has an indoor bouldering wall with multiple challenges.
It is Ben’s aim to share the joy of climbing with others in College, with weekly trips to the indoor wall, plus termly excursions around the country, in an all-student society which is an amalgamation of previous incarnations of undergraduate and postgraduate climbing societies.
The focus is on bouldering – free climbing without ropes – due to equipment and safety needs. Trips to include sport climbing – with ropes – venues such as the Castle in Finsbury Park, north London will be considered.
As well as the physical and mental challenges of the sport, Ben enjoys the focus required as a way of switching off from the rigours of his academic research. He also likes the advice of a friend which helps for appreciating Cambridge, while taking a break from the intensity.
“One of my friends said one of the ways that he enjoys Cambridge is to escape it every so often, and so if you like nature and outdoors and to appreciate the great outdoor spaces that the British Isles and elsewhere has to offer, then I think climbing is great,” says Ben, pictured below preparing to climb.
Travel to the Peak District via Peterborough is not too onerous, and Caius supports students with up to £150 per year through the co-curricular fund, with applications through their Tutor.
Ben says the College is helping to remove barriers to the opportunities, and that anyone can give climbing a go.
“Climbing is slightly different to other sports, potentially, in that you don't have to have years of experience to start getting the most out of it,” he says.
“You can turn up to a climbing wall and give it a go. You don't even need to do much climbing. You can turn up and just chat to people because climbing gyms tend to be a really nice social space.”