One Man Takes on the ‘Mile High’ Challenge at the Springfield College Rock Wall

Mateo Aycardi

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Drew Broffman.
Photo courtesy of Drew Broffman.

Josh Hillman, who considers himself an “average climber at best,” recently had a record-setting day that perhaps could bring more awareness to the climbing community at Springfield College.

The Mile High Challenge is when a person climbs the 35-foot rock wall at the wellness center 202 times, totaling a mile. Most people take on the challenge by spreading the mile over a long period of time, like a semester, but even spreading it out seems like a big workload, and doing it in fewer than three hours just seems like shooting for the stars.

Hillman took that extra step further when he finished the challenge in just under three hours last week (Oct. 28), but he didn’t plan it to be a huge inspiration for others. It was a period of time in which his body and his mind were focused on climbing and only on climbing.

Hillman’s big climb started quite fast. He began his three-hour journey up the wall aggressively, trying to cover as much distance as possible in as little a time as he could. He reaches 100 climbs rather quickly.

“I had more than half my time and I had already covered half of the distance. I knew it was possible, and I just pushed myself to the point of exhaustion,” Hillman said.

But he also knew that the second half would be slower and harder due to his fatigue.

“My hands were the first to go, then my lungs, and finally my forearms. Those are the only things I used to climb, so I just had to push through some pain,” Hillman remembered. “That’s something that people have to consider when climbing the wall. If you’re going to do this, you need a specific type of personality. You need to be able to push through pain, and you need discipline.”

“All of us that climb with a regularity have that in us. When you reach that certain point where you feel pain, it takes a specific determination to say that you’re better than that pain you are feeling at that moment.”

Hillman said that the reason he climbed that much that day was not because of the attention it would bring to the club, but more just for himself.

“I didn’t go in to doing that climb for any other reason than I hadn’t climbed in weeks,” he said. “Climbing for me is a meditative process for my body and my mind, so to think that I just went out to do my thing and could potentially inspire others to join in would be pretty great.”

Not a lot of people know about the rock wall down in the Wellness Center. Sure, there’s the occasional climber and there’s a group of about 14 that climb it regularly, but the wall doesn’t really attract the masses of people it could.

Asked why he decided to take on the Mile High Challenge, Hillman said, “I had heard it had been done before, so that was my motivation, knowing that it was possible. I only had three hours because of my schedule, so I decided to give it a shot.”

When asked about the possibility of having a club team of rock climbing, Hillman was optimistic.

“Right now, we’re just playing a few games at the wall. If there was an actual team, we could potentially have workout schedules, a coach, time designation at the wall, and competitions. Having a team would make us better climbers because of the edge of competitiveness it would bring to the climb.”

Hillman was also quick to talk about the encouragement he got from his friends, saying they helped him get over many problems at the wall.

“There are no inflated egos at the wall,” Hillman stated. “Climbers want nothing more than to see each other succeed.  Some of the problems I have solved wouldn’t have been possible without tips and encouragement from other climbers. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have finished the Mile High so quickly without the help of my friends.”

So if you have some time to kill, or if you want to get away from the world for a moment or two, head down and try the wall. You might end up surprising yourself.

Photo courtesy of Drew Broffman.
Photo courtesy of Drew Broffman.
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