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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mountain club takes students to new heights

Published: September 5, 2008
Section: Features

As Clarence Friedman ‘10 scaled the side of a mountain with only a belay and a strong grip separating him from the ground several hundred feet below, he realized that it was not the time to worry about being afraid of heights.

“The whole way up, I’m shaking, I’m nervous, just like, ‘Don’t look down, don’t look down,’” Friedman recalled.

The climb was vertical the whole way up, and for Friedman, who has a strong fear of heights, it’s a memory he’ll never forget.

Jonah Cohen ’10 remembers learning how to effectively and efficiently navigate his way around a forest using a compass and a map, receiving directions in terms of how many paces to walk in a given direction.

He also now knows how to assist a person suffering from hypothermia in the middle of a forest, with no medical help nearby.

Both Friedman and Cohen learned aqcuired their outdoors skills on the Brandeis budget.

Mountain Club, one of Brandeis’ oldest clubs, provides Brandeis students opportunities to partake in activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting, bungee jumping and hang gliding.

With more than 800 members on its listserv, it’s the most popular club on campus, and since most of the activities are subsidised and members need only RSVP to weekly e-mails sent out by the club’s coordinators in order to attend events, participating is easy.

Prior experience is not required, according to Friedman, who is president of the club.

In fact, one of Friedman’s goals for this year is to make the club more accessible to beginners by concentrating on events that anyone can do, like hiking.

The club meets every Wednesday or Thursday.

Skills needed for events are taught by professionals who give detailed directions at every step of the way.

Cohen hadn’t ever gone water rafting before attempting to pass through level 4 (re: very choppy) rapids in Vermont, yet he managed to come through safe and sound with the help of a personal guide, though as he noted, smiling, “my partner did fall off the boat almost immediately after we got in.”

As Friedman noted, “you can go even if you are a complete novice.” Despite being expert with the belay, he still has someone else check his belay knot before every action.

“Better safe than sorry,” he explained. In the past, in addition to learning how to orienteer (navigate via compass and landmarks), members have also learned how to give medical treatment in settings where no professional medical help would be availible.

Cohen remembers a training session in the middle of a forest when a fellow member was lying on the ground covered in blood and Cohen had to attend to the body to prevent excessive blood loss and maintain internal temperature using the most basic of camping equipment and medical supplies. As Cohen described it, “general First-Aid applied to wilderness setting.” Mountain Club has also provided gear to other groups on campus that would be difficult for them to obtain efficiently otherwise, including loaning sleeping bags to students participating on the Brandeis Hillel alternative Spring Break in New Orleans this past April and providing tents to individual students for various personal adventures.

“I like how big and important to so many people [at Brandeis] we’re becoming,” stated Friedman.

“I would say almost everyone on our listserv has attended at least one trip.”

Attendance usually ranges from 50 people on a larger hiking trip to as few as two people on an intensive mountain climb exclusively for experienced members.

Anyone can go on any trip, but Friedman ensures safety first, and “on certain trips there’s no room for error, you can’t make mistakes. You can’t worry about turning back when you’re 200 feet off the ground.”

People interested in joining should contact Friedman as soon as possible, or attend one of the club’s weekly Monday night meetings in the club’s storage room, located in Pomerantz 1.

As incentive for attendance, students present at the Monday night meetings get first chance to sign up for trips, which oftentimes have limited capacity and fill up fast.

Students with vehicles are needed, as club members use their own and then get reimbursed for gas.

So if you think that sitting atop “The Gunks,” a four-pitch climb in the Catskills of upstate New York, and looking for miles and miles at the scenery around you is how you’d like to pass one of your weekends at Brandeis, check out Mountain Club.

It’s one that can take you to new heights.