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On the Spot with UNH senior Rachael Galipo

If you’ve ever yearned for a rush of adrenaline or an opportunity to let chance take the reins in your life, you can probably understand Rachael Galipo’s love for climbing. Since her freshman year at UNH, Galipo, now a senior, has been testing her limits—first by joining the climbing team, and later, by finding thrill in sport, traditional and ice climbing.

On Sunday, March 5, Galipo competed in Outdoor Adventure’s annual indoor climbing competition, held at the new bouldering wall in the Hamel Recreation Center. With a tally of 2,875 points, Galipo placed first in the women’s division.

“I wasn’t looking for anything, really, I just wanted to see the [climbing] community growing,” Galipo said, noting that she was happy to see an increase in participants, particularly female climbers, since last year’s competition.

Hailing from New Jersey, Galipo has always loved the outdoors, and when she decided that sorority life wasn’t for her, as many of her friends did as well, she found a sense of community at UNH elsewhere. Originally, Galipo joined the Ski and Board Club, and it was there that she met two like-minded upperclassmen with similar interests, Katianna Pardo and Brianna Bruinooge. It was their shared love for bouldering that convinced Galipo to give it a shot. In her first competition, which was at Dartmouth, Galipo came in third.     

Galipo enjoyed bouldering with the climbing team for two years, and even served as captain during her sophomore year. However, she decided to split from the team right before the start of her junior year as she began to gravitate towards climbing higher elevations with ropes, which was a liability for UNH and therefore, was prohibited, according to Galipo.

“I had so much fun [with the climbing team], the people are great,” Galipo said. “I just had to venture out on my own a little bit.”

Galipo said she still loves catching up with fellow climbers she met on the team. She met her best friend, Torey Lee, during one of her first days with the climbing club at Pawtuckaway State Park. Lee is currently studying civil engineering at Lund University in Sweden, and Galipo has plans to visit her in June.

Galipo has been working at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) for about two years now. This season, she began ice climbing with the help of EMS mountain guide, and now, a climbing partner and friend, Justin Guarino.

“[Guarino] really likes to get me scared, which I think is awesome,” Galipo said. “He’s pushed me to my limits which I wouldn’t do myself.”

Galipo acknowledges the risks and dangers that come with this type of climbing. She particularly remembers one specific climb at Cathedral Ledge, in North Conway, where Guarino and her had to pack up and repel down immediately after watching a chuck of ice, the size of a “refrigerator door,” fall past them, down the ledge.  Nevertheless, it’s Galipo’s love for the sport of climbing that keeps her coming back for more.

“To me, climbing does more than I can even express in words,” she said. “When I climb, every stress, from school, friends or family life seems to disappear, only to come back in a new, softer light. Climbing enables me to better my ways of thinking about outer obstacles that the world throws at you.”

The best climbing Galipo has done thus far, she said, was in Thailand, where she traveled during her Easter break while studying abroad in New Zealand during her junior year. As to where she’d like to go next, the possibilities are seemingly endless. According to Galipo, she’d eventually love to climb in Yosemite National Park, Alaska and Patagonia.

After she graduates in May with a major in psychology and a minor in art, Galipo plans on moving into a van with her boyfriend, Derek Schad, and traveling state to state in search of the best climbs in the United States.

Schad, currently a mountain guide in Alaska, has already traveled around the country, climbing for months at a time, so he has an idea of spots he’d like to return to, along with places he has yet to explore. Other than that, the climbing duo has no set plans or destinations.

“The climb’s not going anywhere, that’s for sure,” said Galipo.

Galipo has considered getting her mountain guiding certification as well. Eventually, she hopes to settle down and pursue a career in art therapy, while still climbing whenever  and wherever she can.

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