Higher Education

Higher Education

By Bessie King

In summer 2003, what had been a harmless hobby became dangerous for Benjamin Liu.

He was climbing a cliff 50 feet above the ground in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. The rock he was on was not completely attached to the cliff.

As he continued to move up the rock it became dismounted and fell off.

Liu was left hanging, saved only by his hand grip. He held on and was able to maneuver his feet to get himself onto another rock and to safety.

The feat may seem unimaginable for some, but in the world of bouldering, or free climbing, as it is also known, situations like the one Liu faced come with the territory.

When recalling the danger, Liu speaks with the effortless pseudo-apologetics that makes mothers lose sleep.

“That time was scary, but here I am,” he said.

Whether he is in his hometown in Albuquerque, N.M., or around Boston, the fourth year biochemistry and pre-med major continues his hobby of bouldering.

The sport focuses on free climbing of rocks, glacial erratics, buildings and cliffs and relying only on good hand and foot grip, according to www.slackpacker.com, a Web site that provides hiking trail information and climbing news.

When he came to cliff-sparse Boston, Liu took his urge to climb to the buildings of Northeastern.

While at NU, Liu has climbed on-campus buildings including Kariotis Hall, the Dana Research Center and Churchill Hall. He has also ventured up Boston University’s buildings.

Liu’s east coast climbing totals 30 buildings, by his own count.

Climbing buildings became a hobby after hanging out with friends. One night, Liu and his high school buddies were bored and decided to drive around town to find a building and see if they could climb it. The building they ended up on top of was their old Cleveland Middle School where they got to the roof and admired the night sky.

He uses different techniques to climb the buildings.

“We’d be pretty ingenious on figuring out how to climb these buildings using windows, pipes, bricks,” Liu said. “Sometimes when the cops came they’d even call other cops to watch us climb. Even if we got arrested for it, we should’ve gotten misdemeanors; nothing was ever put on our records. [The police] knew we weren’t climbing to go drink or do drugs on the rooftops. We just wanted to climb.”

A Laid-Back Outlook

Despite the tally, Liu does not have the hardened exterior of a person used to being in his own club. When talking, he uses many cheerful sayings and cracks jokes.

He describes himself as being very random, spontaneous and hard to figure out. Even after being arrested four times for his building climbing and almost having a near-death experience, he still maintains an upbeat personality.

“People say life is short and I think that it’s the opposite,” Liu said. “Life is very long and it’s up to you to decide how you live it

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