Senior rock climber reaches new heights

Tim Whitaker
Tim Whitaker, senior computer science major, boulder climbs in the outdoors. Photo courtesy Tim Whitaker.

The clouds grew dark and the wind picked up as Tim Whitaker continued his perilous climb to the summit of Mount Conness, a prominent peak in the Sierra Nevada range. Shivering from head to toe, he reached the last steep section of the climb, only to be engulfed by clouds and 70 mph winds, a moment he referred to as “the point of no return.”

His climbing abilities were put to the test, but he eventually succeeded in making it to the summit. Whitaker thanked the mountain gods as he reflected on the dangers associated with rock climbing.

“This was my first alpine experience and it gave me a good glimpse into how powerful mountains can be,” Whitaker, senior computer science major, said. “Storms can roll in fast. If there’s ever any doubt about whether you are not sufficiently prepared, get down.”

Whitaker lives for the thrill and excitement that comes with his favorite sport, he said. He started climbing at the end of his freshman year at Chico State when he took the beginner rock climbing class with professor Mike Dent.

“It was obvious that he loved climbing and wanted to share what he’s learned over the years with us,” he said. “He was always psyched to talk about climbing and answer my questions. He was definitely my first and most important mentor.”

After realizing his passion for rock climbing, Whitaker started to frequent the Wildcat Recreation Center climbing gym, where he made friendships with fellow climbers who encouraged him to scale mountains. The outdoors was where Whitaker really began to take off, and he began to incorporate his interest in photography with the aesthetics of climbing.

“Modern technical rock climbing was born here in California,” Whitaker said. “I’m really inspired by the history, and I’m psyched to stand upon the shoulders of giants and make a name for myself in the climbing world.”

Soon after his first outdoor experiences came the beginning of Whitaker’s mtnblog, a website he designed to write about his climbing adventures and showcase his photography. It all started with Whitaker’s desire to document a climbing trip, but it grew into a continuous project and hobby. His website got 10,000 views in its first month.

“I’ve been programming for five plus years now and I’ve done a fair amount of side projects and mobile applications,” Whitaker said. “Mtnblog is my proudest work so far, and I’m trying to make it as successful as possible.”

Even though there is less money in climbing than computer science, climbing has shaped Whitaker’s own personal philosophy to make every experience an opportunity for growth, he said.

“There are a handful of options I’m going to explore,” he said. “I’m not sure I really want to sell my soul to work a high-paying desk job for corporate America or be a nomadic dirtbag living out of my car going from crag to crag. I think there’s a sweet spot between all my passions and I’m going to find it.”

Stephanie Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @stephbottt on Twitter.