When climbing, ‘nothing else matters,’ says Chester Chiao ’13

Photographer Phyllis Graber Jensen stopped by the climbing wall at Merrill Gymnasium recently and asked Chester Chiao ’13 of Taipei, Taiwan, pictured here, why he climbs.

Chester Chiao '13 trains on the rock wall in Merill Gymnasium Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Chester Chiao ’13 trains on the rock wall in Merill Gymnasium. Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

What are you doing in this picture?
I am training for endurance: keeping myself on the wall as long as possible.

Why do you climb?
I ask myself that question when I am 500 feet above ground on a vertical rock face, freezing my butt off, knowing that I am two-hour drive away from my cozy bed and delicious Commons food!

I climb because it helps me discover my limits, face my fears and overcome them. It also teaches me how to be both physically and mentally in check.

“Nothing else matters until you get to the top.”

The summit is what we strive for, but the process to it is extremely rewarding. I am in a completely different environment in the vertical world, and nothing else matters until you get to the top.

Last but not least, the people you meet along the way and the stories they share about their adventures has also attracted me to the climbing community.

How does climbing fit into your Bates life?
My buddies and I always look for adventures on the weekends — trying to get on multi-pitch climbs in North Conway, N.H., or pulling on hard sport climbs in Shagg Crag, about 15 miles east of Bethel, Maine.

Does your style differ from other Bates climbers?
I am smaller than most climbers at Bates (and the rest of the world). I have to come up with different “beta,” ways or sequences to do a certain climb, and be more dynamic to reach faraway holds.

Why climb shirtless?
Climbing without a shirt is a big part of the bouldering culture. They say it makes you climb harder. Maybe that’s true, or maybe they just want to show off their back muscles. I took my shirt off because it was really hot in the gym, and I didn’t have another shirt to change into before dinner. Plus, I’m too scrawny to show off anything.