Northeastern Rock Climbing Team Finds Immediate Success

The team placed second at the collegiate national championships.

rock climbing

Levin competes at nationals. Photo by Cole Alcock, provided to

All Evan Goldfinger wanted was a rock climbing wall. The now second year Northeastern University student was determined to get a wall on campus when he first got to the university. Instead, he ended up founding a nationally successful rock climbing team.

“Ideally, we wanted a rock climbing wall. So how do we get a rock climbing wall? We prove we could do very well at climbing and be beneficial to everyone,” Goldfinger says. “I came in and we thought, maybe get a rock climbing team going.”

Goldfinger, who is the team president, was introduced to fellow Northeastern student Josh Levin (now the captain), who happens to be a 19-time winner of the national rock climbing championships. The two worked together, along with the university, to start a competitive Northeastern rock climbing club team earlier this year. Two weeks after tryouts, the team won regionals. A few weeks after that, they placed second at the 2014 collegiate National Championships.

“It was actually a lot more popular than we expected; it’s not a mainstream sport yet,” Levin says of the team’s immediate success. “We already have an outdoors club set up on campus, and we wanted to differentiate ourselves because we want to be able to train for competitions and push specifically rock climbing and build a huge community of climbers at Northeastern.”

Competitive rock climbing is made up of three types of events: lead climbing (each athlete tackles the same course and tries to get as high as possible in a set time); bouldering (several short, difficult routes with height measured cumulatively); and speed climbing (a race up a standardized wall).

“It is a very well-rounded sport. You’re using all these different muscle groups; you’re getting a very thorough workout,” Levin explains. “You have to incorporate that all together with balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, core, and problem solving. It’s all there.”

After doing so well in its first season of competition, Goldfinger says the team has its sights set on a first place finish at next year’s national championship. More importantly, though, both Goldfinger and Levin want to build upon the growing popularity of rock climbing and encourage more schools in Boston and nationwide to start teams.

“Ideally, we want to bring it to the NCAA level,” Goldfinger says. “Ten years ago, you said rock climbing and people were like, ‘Oh, I may have heard of it.’ Now you say rock climbing and and people have climbed at least once in their life. It’s definitely getting bigger and we want to be part of that driving motion to make it huge.”

Levin agrees, noting that the sport is on the rise worldwide, but especially in the U.S. “We’re just trying to promote the sport of climbing at colleges around the country, not just in Boston,” he says. “It’s becoming the most accessible outdoor action sport. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, how tall you are, what gender, age, nothing. It just matters how well you can climb.”

As for getting that rock climbing wall on campus? They’re still working on it.

rock climbing

Members of the team at its practice facility, MetroRock.