Learn how to conquer your fears and reach new heights with Climbing Team Coach Carter Smith

A native of Boone, North Carolina, Carter Smith has had a passion for the outdoors since he was a child.

Spending his time skiing, camping, and eventually climbing, his upbringing always centered around “being an outdoorsy person,” as Carter recalls it.

After graduating from Appalachian State University, he continued to pursue his personal passions for climbing and the outdoors and meld it with his love for teaching.

Carter accepted his position at Lees-McRae as the Climbing Team Coach and Outdoor Recreation Management instructor and has loved each moment getting “to teach, coach, mentor, and facilitate the climbing-related experiences of so many amazing students at Lees-McRae,” he said.

Get to know Smith some more in our most recent staff Q&A: (responses have been edited for clarity and brevity).

What is it about rock climbing that you enjoy? Why did you want to become a coach? 

I love how climbing forces you to learn to find comfort and fun in challenging or scary positions. I also think that learning to differentiate between real and perceived risk is a fantastic—arguably necessary—life skill. As someone who was privileged enough to grow up in the sport, I want to do my best to help others engage in and enjoy the same opportunities I have had—including climbing. The life lessons, memories, friendships, and experiences I have gained through climbing are some of the most important in my life. I love being able to share that as a teacher and coach.

What is it about Lees-McRae and the High Country that makes it a great venue to teach in and learn from?

There is a fantastic community of motivated students who want to learn about climbing! Second, there are even some satellite sites on campus where the classes can go to get hands-on experience. There is also a large community of inclusive and kind climbers in the High Country. I would argue that the climbing here in Western North Carolina is some of the best in the U.S.

If you could talk directly to all the students here at Lees-McRae, what would you say?

Go for it! Try the sports and experiences that make you a little nervous. Just make sure that you go skiing, climbing, and exploring with someone who has a strong background and can keep the experience safe—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Going climbing—even at the indoor wall—should be on every student’s college bucket list.

Is it possible to develop a career in the world of rock climbing? How would an interested student go about doing that?

Yes! There are a number of different ways to go about it including coaching and teaching like I do here. The biggest thing is that you must do is find your niche—either by being a photographer, athlete, competitor, coach, guide, etc. You have to find a way to fill a professional void that makes you necessary for the organization or brand you want to represent.

What are some of your favorite spots on campus—to climb or otherwise—that students, faculty, staff, or visitors to the area should check out?

My favorite spots on campus include Hidden Boulder (a campus climbing site), Evans Auditorium (where we host the annual Reel Rock Film Festival), the Student Recreation Complex climbing wall, and the many biking and hiking trails surrounding campus.

What is a fun fact about you, or something that people might not know about you?

I grew up playing classical cello both as a soloist and orchestra member through the Suzuki School of the Arts.


Learn more about recreation, wellness, and outdoor opportunities at Lees-McRae here

Learn more about the Outdoor Recreation Management program here

Q&A with Carter Smith
By Nina MastandreaFebruary 27, 2019
AthleticsCampus LifeAcademics