Rock climbing - reaching new heights

NORTHSHIRE - It is an unconventional sport and one that some coaches have said some people do not understand. But to those that participate in it, the sport of rock climbing is appealing for a number of reasons.

"It's a strength building sport. It's a tough sport and it kind of works all aspects of your body," said Long Trail School junior Katy Czar. "It kind of works all aspects of your body. It works your physical side and your mental side because it's like a puzzle. You have to solve the puzzle to get to the top."

Gabby Vella - a member of Burr and Burton Academy's rock climbing team - said she first got into the sport two years ago when she was in eighth grade at Long Trail School. The sport appealed to her for a number of reasons, she said. Not only was it good for her arms, but she said that it was an interactive sport in which she got to meet a lot of new people from other schools and develop a trusting relationship with them. That is due to the nature of the competitions, during which students from other schools will belay for the climber - a process in which the person on the ground puts friction on the rope when the climber is not moving and removes the friction when the climber continues.

For BBA freshman Thomas Leiter the appeal of the sport was not only that it was something different, but it was also something that helped him for the other sports he plays throughout the rest of the year.

"This is my first year and just started brand new last year and it's really exciting you know for [me as] a freshman to be on the climbing team." he said. "It's something for me to get into because I play baseball in the spring and I need something to keep my training up, keep my endurance so I don't lose it over the winter and this is a great way to keep it all going."

In their first competition which took place at the Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center in Rutland last week, BBA - who just began to compete in the sport toward the end of last season - came in fourth out of the eight teams at the competition.

"We surprised ourselves," said BBA coach Andrew MacArthur. "We beat teams we didn't expect to beat."

Scoring is determined by following a specific route. For example, if a climber were to successfully climb a 5.8 route they would receive 800 points; a 5.9, 900 points and so on and so forth. Generally speaking, while climbs can range from 5.1 to 5.15, the difficulty is scaled down in most gyms and ranges from a 5.5 to 5.13. The paths are color coded, ranking their difficulty.

Competitions run for an hour and a half, but Long Trail coach Scott Worland said that it can sometimes be difficult for climbers to get all of their climbs in during that time period.

"Not all your routes are available to climb when you want to. So, you have to check back on competitive routes and so you may be waiting 15 minutes to be able to compete on a specific route because other teams are using it. So, the space has definitely been a challenge with these competitions because as the sport becomes more popular there are more students in that same hour and a half period trying to get their climbs in."

The amount of time it takes to get up the wall can vary depending on the diffiiculty of the climb, said Czar.

"The other night I had a climb that I was up it in maybe a minute and then there's sometimes where they're really technical. You have a move that requires a lot of balance so you're moving slowly," said Czar.

Although Long Trail senior Collin Campagne admitted that he was an impatient climber, he said that it usually takes him about seven minutes to get to the top.

A person can have two or three tries to make a climb before they have to give the person belaying them an opportunity to attempt the route.

A misconception there seems to be surrounding the sport, Worland indicated, was that strength played a significant role in what constitutes a good climber - something he said is not accurate.

"The physique of a strong climber tends not to be bulky in terms of muscle mass [I think it's] more wiry. I think more sort of lean and flexible," said Worland. "Flexibility is important. You get guys that think because they're strong they're going to be very good climbers, but it's not brute strength that gets you to the top. It is a problem solving piece. It has to due with patience, planning, [and] observation."

Campagne, who has been climbing for at least a few years, said that it really wasn't until last year that everything seemed to come together for him.

"At some point last year something just clicked in my mind and I was just able to exponentially move up in terms of skill," said Campagne. "Like I was climbing 5.8s and 5.9s. So, I went from that to a 5.11 and 5.12 and I just took it to a whole new level for myself and started exercising a lot more. So, I just became a lot more dedicated to the sport and my health."

Another reason the sport appeals to both Czar and Campagne is that while they are still exercising, they said it doesn't feel like it, because it is something they enjoy doing.

"It's rewarding in a sense [too] because it's like strength that's applicable," said Campagne. "It's better than just doing a bunch of sit ups and push ups. It's actually putting meaning into your strengths."


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