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Brodie Recreation Center continues to be closed until further notice. View more details here.


Whether you go to Wilson Recreation Center for a smoothie, a class, or a workout, you’re bound to walk past Wilson’s 35-foot tall, colorfully adorned rock wall. Some days you’ll see a friend or two scaling this wall, their waist secured to one of many purple ropes, and wave hello. You might wonder how you can get started and join the exciting challenge, or you might instead wonder how they can possibly be so unfazed that high up. 

Elizabeth Bock, Andie Kolarova, Natalie Lewis, Sara Pepka, and I lead Women+ Outdoor Adventures events every Wednesday to help Duke’s women and gender-expansive community get into climbing and meet new climbers, no matter which side of that spectrum of fear vs. excitement you exist on. 

Climbing is similar to weightlifting in that almost everyone is afraid to try it out alone and embarrass themselves for being “too weak”. W+OA was formed to create a safe space (we reserve half of the wall during our climb nights) for you to climb with and meet other beginners. 

Before teaching you to climb, we start with icebreakers and a presentation of a role model or pioneer of the outdoors or climbing world, emphasizing that women and queer folks are inspiring and amazing. While you learn how to climb, we envision a group supporting and empowering each other to gain confidence and a sense of belonging in the climbing world. We are here to tell you exactly how safe you are on the wall (the rope can hold a literal car). With our variety of routes and climbing tips, nobody is “too weak” to climb. And we’ll encourage you relentlessly through that very understandable fear of heights. 

Before you leave, we hold a short reflection circle to hear your thoughts and feedback. We exist to make you feel like everyone can learn, thrive, and belong here at the climbing wall. You’ll leave feeling like you can do so much more, excited to come back for more chalky nights at the wall. 

Often, climbing draws hesitant interest: “It looks fun but I’m definitely too weak”. “I have no upper body strength; I could never”. Last Wednesday, after my co-leaders and I introduced a dozen beginners to climbing, and after we watched everyone reach new heights, our weekly reflection circle made my day. Instead of self-doubt, the new climbers shared something different, with one climber summing it all up: “I learned that I can do more than I think.” 

So whether you’ve just flashed the 5.12 route that you created yourself and want to meet more of your climber family, or you’ve never touched a harness in your life due to weak arms and a terror of heights, join us at Wilson’s Climbing Wall! Come by any Wednesday 8:30-10:00pm, and let us rope you into the never-ending adventure that is climbing.

Image Credit: Grace Wei - Duke University, Class of 2023