GORP brings the outdoors to all students

Keli Vitaioli & Candace Mettle

vitaioli@grinnell.edu, mettleca@grinnell.edu

The Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP) strives to provide Grinnellians with means to connect with the outdoors of Iowa and beyond, no matter their level of fitness or experience. GORP offers a wide variety of activities ranging from canoeing, hiking and even rock climbing at the Bear Athletic Center.

“In the beginning I didn’t know much about GORP,” said Prabir Pradhan ’18, one of the bike leaders for GORP. “I just got on the email list, then after that I went on one hike.”

GORP recently purchased five new bikes to introduce the biking program, which prompted Pradhan to apply for one of the leader positions.
“I was really into biking before, so I got involved,” he said. “It’s great getting paid for doing something so fun.”

With two more new high-quality bikes on the way, GORP is promoting this program by offering weekly bike trips.
Jack O’Malley ’17, president of GORP and activities manager, noted that notoriously cold Iowa winters deterred the ability to offer activities past November.

Annie Casey '17 kayaking on a GORP trip to Buffalo River, Ark.

Annie Casey ’17 kayaking on a GORP trip to Buffalo River, Ark. Contributed photo

“In the later parts of the semester, interest [in GORP] drops,” O’Malley said. “We’re hoping that the biking program would offer more opportunities.”
Due to the stresses of college life, Pradhan emphasized how Grinnellians are unaware of what GORP has to offer.

“Not many people realize what they can do with GORP. There’s only a one-time rental fee [of $15] for equipment, and we can plan trips for people,” he said. “We have kayaks, canoe trips, skiing and more. I think we could do more with advertising, and we’re working on that right now by word of mouth.”

GORP acts on a first-come, first-served basis, and space is very limited on the amount of people who can attend a trip. Pradhan, O’Malley and Leina’ala Voss ’18, a GORP canoe leader, said that to get on board with GORP activities, students should join the mailing list.

Not only do GORP trips allow students to pursue their interests, they also allow members to build a community.

“The trips are pretty laid-back,” Voss said. “[They] are a good way of connecting people with others who also have an interest in the outdoors.”

However, GORP activities are not limited to the outdoors. The rock climbing wall, located in the basement of the Athletics Center, provides not just the space for experienced climbers to practice but also for new climbers.

Rhett Lundy ’18 and Joseph MacDonald ’18 are two of the four instructors GORP provides to instruct rock climbing classes. They run classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. The class is open to all skill levels.

“The purpose is to show students all the skills they need to climb again in the future,” Lundy said. “People come to the class never having climbed before and we show them different grips, how to belay and knots they would need to come back.”

The class is openly structured and flexible depending on what the climbers need. A first-time climber can get an introductory overview of climbing, while a veteran can try their skills on a number of routes.

Creating a community is important to both Lundy and MacDonald. They want to provide not just a place to learn or work out, but also a place to spend time, listen to music and meet some great people. David Chang ’18 attended a rock climbing course through GORP during his first year. He had never climbed before.

“[MacDonald] was actually my trainer, and I remember climbing with him and having a great time,” Chang said. “The wall with [Lundy] and [MacDonald] just has a really nice and chill vibe. Everyone is there to learn and have fun.”

Lundy began climbing competitively when he was 15 and began coaching other high school students when he was 16. MacDonald has no competitive rock climbing experience but has been climbing since he was nine on the grand pitches near his home in Spain.

Rhett  Lundy ’18 (top) and Joseph MacDonald ’18 on the Bear’s rock wall. Photo by Sno Zhao

Rhett Lundy ’18 (top) and Joseph MacDonald ’18 on the Bear’s rock wall.
Photo by Sno Zhao

“I didn’t learn to climb by paying people, it was just people who would see me by the routes in Spain and teach me just because,” MacDonald said. “I am grateful for them and I want to give back to the climbing community. Near my house there is this ridge I love [to] climb, but it is a very hard climb.

I spend hours just teaching people and helping them because that is what people did for me.”

For climbers with more experience who looking for a challenge, there is also sport climbing and rappelling equipment available. But ultimately, they are not expecting many people to fall into this category.

“You have to remember, we’re in Grinnell,” MacDonald said. “No one expects you to be a professional climber in the middle of Iowa.”

Additional reporting by Nana Karayama, Features Editor.