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Dear Penn State: Let Me Climb The Obelisk

The obelisk in between Sackett and Willard makes for an interesting part of Penn State culture. Since its original erection in 1896, the 33-foot-tall collection of stones has been shrouded in mystery and has been the center point of various campus legends.

What is it? Why is it there? What purpose does it serve? These are all questions I barely have the answers to, but questions that I am not concerned with. What I want to do, with permission from the university, is climb the obelisk.

Since the second semester of my freshman year, I’ve gotten into rock climbing thanks to the incredible bouldering (read: small wall, no rope) and top rope (big wall, rope and harness) walls installed in the IM building in 2017. But every climber knows that just pulling on plastic holds indoors isn’t enough at a certain point, and they seek the thrill and openness of the great outdoors. This is where the obelisk comes into play.

The outdoor climbing scene around the State College area is okay. It features a handful of top-rope routes out past innovation park and decent bouldering areas in Rothrock State Forest. As someone without a car on campus, however, that just doesn’t cut it for me. The obelisk is located right on campus, and includes beautiful stones to climb from all around our beautiful state. Plus, it’s already listed on’s guide for climbing in the area.

I do have to admit that the logistics of this potential operation are very questionable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In order to climb something that tall, I would feel most comfortable harnessed in, which would mean some sort of anchor would need to be drilled into the top of the obelisk. I understand if the university doesn’t want to permanently damage a 100-plus-year-old geological landmark, so there’s another solution.

Just bring in some sort of crane and loop the rope around it so I can be properly and safely belayed while climbing. I see the logistical questions behind this method as well, so feel free to also just turn one of the many cranes downtown towards campus and I can use that as well. Or just drill an anchor in the top — pick your poison.

There’s an argument to be made for drilling an anchor though, as obelisk climbing can become a permanent tradition at Penn State. With the hoops team doing better than ever, perhaps fans can go and safely climb the obelisk after big home wins at a price. That money can be used to improve basketball facilities, help recruiting, and sustain a winning culture for Penn State basketball.

Maybe climbing the obelisk can become a THON fundraiser, too. Come climb the obelisk! Only $25 to climb benefiting THON, credit your org! I’m just spitballing here, but as you can see, the marketing possibilities for obelisk climbing are endless.

I can see the national headlines now: “Penn State Student Climbs Obelisk, Starts Fundraiser Benefiting Pediatric Cancer.” You can even hire a professional to climb it to limit liabilities. This a win-win situation.

Penn State: I would really appreciate it (pretty please!) if you let me climb the obelisk. I think it would be a fun thing to do, and it’d also be a cool marketing event for the university. Even if you want to do a wink-wink, turn-a-blind-eye sort of deal and just let me do it with protective crashpads, that as well. Haha just kidding…unless?

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a sophomore business major from Bucks County, which is juuuust outside of Philly. He's a huge Philly sports fan, back to back to back failed entrepreneur, and he appeared on the Rachel Ray Show at the age of 5. If you want to gain absolutely nothing, you can follow him on twitter @rjparsons9. Any "serious" inquiries or death threats can be sent to [email protected]


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