Indoor climbing wall to open

A new indoor rock climbing facility will open soon on campus, providing experts and beginners a chance to practice their climbing skills all year long.

The Jonathan Belden Daniels Climbing Gym will open Oct. 10 in a converted racquetball court in the basement of Maxwell dormitory.

Faculty and students involved with the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club worked during the summer to construct the 23-foot tall artificial climbing room. Each wall is contoured and fitted with a multitude of odd-shaped climbing holds.

The gym will be open to the public seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Admission costs $5 per day or $20 per term; there is a reduced rate of $18 per term for Dartmouth Outing Club members. Climbing shoes and other equipment can be rented for about $3.

Because of safety concerns, monitors will be on guard at all hours to assist and help practicing climbers, said Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs Brian Kunz, who was involved in planning and constructing the facility.

Kunz and others involved in the planning said they foresee the Daniels Gym as being a place for students to gather and participate in an enjoyable and athletic activity.

Kunz, working with Director of Outdoor Programs Earl Jette and Assistant Dean of Residential Life Alison Keefe, oversaw the gym’s construction.

While College Architect John Wilson and engineer Mike Howard drew up the plans, students, faculty members, and loyal alumni volunteered design advice and brute labor.

John Joline ’70, a climbing teacher, drew up some preliminary sketches for the room.

Students Chris Carson ’95, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club President Heather Halstead ’96, Tony Mamone ’96 and Tyler Stableford ’96 drilled holes and hammered nails alongside Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences Leslie Saunders, Kunz, and other faculty members.

“A lot of sweat equity went into this,” Kunz said.

During the pre-planning stage, Keefe issued surveys and found that the climbing wall was a well-accepted idea. She said many Dartmouth men and women climbed rock faces and used indoor facilities 40 minutes from campus.

Thought was given to installing the facility in the Alumni Gym or the Fairchild Tower, but the final decision to put it in a racquetball court evolved from the thinking that it would be more secure and cause no tension between climbers and the athletes and scientists who use the other buildings.

Money for the project came from the family of Jonathan Belden Daniels ’86, a climbing enthusiast for whom the gym is named. Daniels died in an avalanche in 1990, while leading a group of hikers across Poland’s Tatra Mountains.

His father, Belden Daniels ’56, donated the funds to build the gym as a memorial to his son.

Jonathan Daniels had left a successful and promising career as an investment banker on Wall Street to travel to Poland and help the Eastern Europeans rebuild their economy.

Working with the Task Force for Company Assistance, he consulted Polish manufacturers regarding the transition to a free-market economy.

Kunz said Daniels was also an outdoorsman, who strived to share experiencing the wilderness with others.

Jonathan Daniels, who taught Dartmouth students how to climb, was instrumental in creating the climbing classes now available to all students. Very close to family and friends, he wrote the following to his brother in a letter received after his death.

“Keep your eyes open, take risks, and whenever possible, don’t do things the way everyone else does.”

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