The consensus goes that freshmen who don’t endure the M-Climb are not truly Orediggers. The fiery resolve of upperclassmen to stand by the tradition is not unreasonable; afterall, the M-Climb is the quintessential Mines experience.
This year, it seemed more like a hazing.
My belief is that the climb should revolve around the act of transporting a rock to the top of the mountain. We are storing potential energy in an object symbolic of our own resilience to later be released kinetic. The work we put into our rocks become the impetus for newly-capped graduates to launch off towards their professional careers. This was not what freshmen experienced this year. The focus was instead on the various devices brought to hinder our progress. A few splashes of cold water capitalized the start of the climb, but this water quickly and unfortunately evolved into soap suds that stung our eyes, water guns that shot at our faces, and upperclassmen that prioritized dumping ice water over promoting their own organizations. The M-Climb this year represented a growing disparity between what I believe to be the true purpose of the climb and the ugly amalgamation of tradition, seniority, and freshman initiation that we mistakenly name Oredigger spirit.
As an incoming student, I made the assumption that a lighthearted “work smarter, not harder” solution to the climb’s challenge would be welcome at a place like Mines. I did in fact bring a 10 pound rock– just not in the traditional sense. Holding a stone priced at 10£ (with a glued tag) snugly in the palm of my hand, I quickly became subjected to demands to throw away my rock and choose a new one from the side of the road. All I had hoped for were a few smiles or (more realistically) glares for my bad pun, but I was left feeling uncertain about what Mines culture really was.
What I chose to do broke tradition. It was the unhealthy focus on M-Climb tradition that resulted in an unwelcoming climb for myself and other freshmen– but we can still change this. Rather than framing the M-Climb as the first assessment given at Mines, we should embrace its purpose as an activity that promotes the collaborative, engineering, and creative abilities of the students that will need to use them for the rest of their careers. Encourage us to find solutions to a challenge, and the results will far exceed the monotony of hundreds of white-washed 10 pound rocks sitting silently on a mountain.