A wet & greasy climb

One student carried off on spinal board

Despite drizzle and a one-hour delay, Sci ’10 climbed the pole in one hour and 40 minutes.
Despite drizzle and a one-hour delay, Sci ’10 climbed the pole in one hour and 40 minutes.

The class of Sci ’10 spent almost as much time “bringing sexy back” as they did climbing the pole at Saturday’s annual Grease Pole event, which broke for more than two hours after a male student was removed from the pit on a spinal board.

“It was precautionary, he is fine, there is no severe injury,” said EngSoc president Connor Langford.

The pit was cleared nearly an hour and a half into the climb as Queen’s First Aid and medical personnel entered to treat the student, who was taken to the hospital for examination.

The event could not continue without an ambulance on site.

During the break, frosh wrapped themselves in residence blankets by the fire, ate or joined in the dance party that broke out in front of the scaffolding, which involved more than 100 people at its peak. The heat in several of the buses was also turned on to allow students to keep warm and stay out of the rain.

Despite six rotations of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” at Grease Pole, Sci ’10’s official year song is “Over My Head” by Sum 41.

“We were just standing around shivering, but now we’re dancing, we’re fine now,” said Danielle Sheahan while dancing to Kanye West with other frosh.

The weather didn’t cooperate with this year’s climax of Engineering Frosh Week, remaining cloudy with intermittent rain while the temperature dropped steadily in the morning and early afternoon.

Tickets for upper-year buses to the event sold out much quicker than in previous years. Langford attributed this to increased interest from students of both Engineering and other faculties.

“I think that this is an event that appeals not just to the Eng faculties, but [is] something that other faculties want to come and see—they want to see the history and the tradition that goes on at the Grease Pole site,” he said.

Although many upper-year students left during the intermission, Sci ’07 Stephen Andrews was still in high spirits.

“It’s been amazing. I got up, and I started drinking, and then I stood in the freezing cold water, and now I’m really cold, but I’m ready to go back in and I’m still here,” he said.

Andrews’s frosh climb in 2003 was also halted to remove two students on spinal boards, neither of whom were seriously injured.

“It looks like everybody’s having a good time, instead of in my year—we just kind of moped and waited for the ambulance to come back,” he said. “So it’s looking good. The FREC Committee’s doing a good job for them.”

Once the ambulance returned, the frosh and upper-years re-entered the pit for a fully-directed climb coached by the Science Constables. It took three attempts and 15 minutes before Tom Hoddes managed to remove the tam from the pole, hanging off its side with his curly hair full of lanolin.

As he was being mobbed by his peers, Hoddes’s only comment on getting the tam after so many attempts was that it felt “pretty fucking awesome.”

Sci ’10’s official time was one hour, 40 minutes and 45 seconds.

The record for a lanolin climb belongs to Sci ’08, with a time of 31:11.

Langford said the climb went well.

“It was certainly one of the more emotional climbs we had when they did get the tam, because there was so much anticipation and so much work that went into organizing to get more climbs after the break,” he said. “We had a very, very determined year ... they were very, very safe in their climb, they followed instructions very well during the directed climb.”

In addition to being a University tradition, Langford said the Grease Pole brings an element of teamwork to frosh, forcing them to work together.

“The point of Grease Pole is to get the year to understand that if they try to go after a goal by themselves, it’s a very difficult task, and they need each other to accomplish a common goal,” he said. “I think it’s the biggest welcome we can give to first-years, helping them to accomplish the task as a group.”

Langford said engineering frosh receive training earlier in the week in their smaller groups.

“They’re trained to break, how to core, how to form the base layers, make sure they understand what’s an acceptable practice and what is not, and what works as opposed to what does not.”

At Thursday Night Live, frosh receive waivers for the event, which outlines the risks associated with the Grease Pole.

“The first-years do understand that the climb is completely optional, “ Langford said. “We look out for their safety, but they do have to exercise a certain degree of common sense to make sure that we don’t have injuries.”

Langford said safety and security measures at Grease Pole include security on the frosh and upper-year buses, security preventing attendees from entering the pit before the event begins, and a crew of SciCons in the water watching the climb and remaining in “constant contact” with the team on the scaffolding, which includes the EngSoc president, the Chief Frec, and head Science Constable.

“As well,” Langford said, “we have QFA there for the entire day, we have Kingston Police and we have [Science] Constables there at all times. We have Campus Security and the Department of Health and Safety to make sure we don’t have any potential issues both before and during the pole climb.”

Queen’s First Aid director Christina Slomka said Grease Pole was “well-organized and it ran fairly smoothly, considering the nature of the event.”

Slomka said besides boarding one frosh, the other injuries QFA treated were typical for Grease Pole: “bumps and bruises and some cuts, nothing out of the ordinary.”

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