Pole climb ‘too straightforward’

Derek Zwaan, Sci ’08, reaches for the tam at this year’s Grease Pole.
Derek Zwaan, Sci ’08, reaches for the tam at this year’s Grease Pole.
A Pole participant de-purples.
A Pole participant de-purples.

Depending on with whom you speak, this year’s Grease Pole was the pits.

Although Sci ’08 Frosh climbed the pole and retrieved the tam in 31 minutes and 11 seconds, many Frecks and upper year engineers left last Saturday’s event dissatisfied.

“One, they got [the tam] too fast. Two, there was not enough grease. Three, [Frosh] were told step by step how to climb the pole. Four, there was very little water in the pit—only knee high. Five, they didn’t have any drunk upper years pummeling them,” said Josh Metcalfe, Sci ’07.

Capping off Engineering Frosh Week, the event challenges first-years to work together as a team and validates them as the new class. Sci ’08 succeeded in breaking the past two years’ records for the annual tradition.

Ben Lawrence, Sci ’07, said that guidelines stressed during Freck training compromised the event.

“The more hardship [Frosh] go through in the pit, the tighter it brings them as a year,” he said. “[The Freck Committee] actually specified ‘The faster the climb, the safer the event’.”

Alexa Hink, Sci ’07, said these conditions made this year’s climb too straightforward. “We had to explain way too much,” she said.

Even Derek Zwaan, Sci ’08, the six-foot-seven Frosh who scaled his peers and stretched himself up the final lengths of the pole to tear off the rim of the tam, agreed.

“It might have been too easy,” he said.

Nonetheless, Zwaan said he faced numerous obstacles.

“I got rocks in my shoes ... but I just climbed up with them in there,” he said.

“I’d say [the climb was] a seven or eight on a scale of intensity.”

However, the consensus around the pit—a muddy, water-filled basin approximately 12-metres in diameter—was that Sci ’08 didn’t have to work hard enough to achieve their goal.

Craig Watson, Sci ’05, said the task was incomplete because only part of the tam was removed.

“[Frosh] didn’t get the ball,” he said, referring to the pom-pom on top. “They got the ring, that’s all.”

But Chief Freck Michele Romanow said Sci ’08’s climb was victorious.

“The rule is that you have to get a piece of the tam,” she said.

Not everyone agreed.

“We’re disgruntled Frecks,” said Brendan Boyle, Sci ’07.

“[Frosh] didn’t get the whole tam ... the weather was too good, it wasn’t cold enough [and] there wasn’t enough frost bite or hypothermia,” he said.

Liz Hartling, Sci ’08, who said she was on the second level of Frosh in the pit, was ecstatic about her peers’ performance.

“We got more of the tam than [our Frecks] did,” she said.

“We broke the record, so they’re jealous.”

Sharone Karagach, Sci ’05, hypothesized the speedy climb resulted from an increase in the newest class’s size.

“We need to increase the dimensions of the pit accordingly,” he said.

“The pole stays 24 feet tall,” said John Hamilton, Sci ’04. “[But] in the last 30 years, [the class size] has gone up by 250 people,” he said.

Watson said that as an upper year engineer, the event did not proceed properly.

“There’s supposed to be an hour of poor attempts and then an hour of drunken attempts, and then we go in,” he said.

At the 60 minute mark, upper year engineers are encouraged to charge into the pit.

“Usually you have to rely on the mass of the upper years to support the Frosh,” explained Hamilton.

Romanow dismissed the complaints.

“Upper years always want to get involved, but Frosh Week is designed for Frosh,” she said.

Bryn Gingrish, Sci ’07, said the heavy rainfall in the past week contributed to a change in this year’s Grease Pole.

“It was too muddy to get the pole truck to the pit,” he said.

This meant the pole committee, whom Gingrish assisted, was forced to carry the lanolin-coated pole through the water-swollen pit.

“The pole is pretty awkward ... we got it up, but it fell down and got submerged,” he said. “Because it got wet, I feel that ... made [the lanolin] fall off the pole.”

Gingrish said this mishap made the pole less slippery.

“When there’s lots of grease on the pole, it tends to drip and that can make it more of a challenge,” he said.

The extra precautions this year did result in a positive change from the Sci ’07 climb, when two students were sent to the hospital with injuries.

Tom Harris, dean of applied science, said he was pleased with the pace of this year’s climb.

“The sooner it’s over, the happier I am,” he said.

“The Frecks were a bit blue,” Harris said, “But that’s good coaching.”

Jeff Liddell, paramedic for Frontenac County, was on-site and said there were no incidents.

“It was a pretty flawless event and very entertaining,” he said.

Angela Pacey, director for Queen’s First Aid, confirmed there were no major injuries.

Joris Dewitt, Sci ’07, said the overall sentiment was that this year’s Frosh were lucky.

Zwaan disagreed, pointing to the spirit of the event.

“The secret was not ‘breaking’ when you know you’re gonna get it,” said Zwaan. “When you’re that close ... just keep going for it, just get it on!”

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