Climbing Competition - Pinedale Aquatic Center
March 20, 2017
by Terry Allen
March 21, 2017
When Dawn asked me if I'd like to do a story on the PAC Climbing Competition Monday afternoon, I eagerly accepted thinking I might get some great shots of agonized faces from the crow’s nest on top of the climbing wall.
Jason Burton, the competition organizer, just started shaking his head as soon as he saw me walk thru the door and kept on shaking it thru my story about having DNA origins to great ape silverbacks in Africa. "No, no, no," he said. "It ain't gonna happen. I can't even get up there without special training and signatures in triplicate that have to be sent to Washington, D.C.(something like that)."
He must have sensed I was about to cry, so he offered to climb up there with his camera and get a few shots of climber faces as they fought to gain the summit.
If you look at the wall, you see all the pretty colored hand-holds. It doesn't mean a home decorator did it, it means that each color is a route up the wall. For example, you follow purple all the way from the bottom to the top if you can. You have to drop back down and start over if you step on or grab any other color. You also have to start over if you fall off the mountain.
Don't worry about falling, tho. You have a choice of a human belayer or an automatic belayer. Your buddy stays on the ground and keeps the rope tight so if you fall, you don't fall very far because he/she pulls the rope hard and stops the fall. Since you depend on your buddy, I noticed the belayers on the ground were all totally focused on the climber they were teamed with. I would be a bad belayer, I'm too sociable. I'd talk, you'd hit the dirt. The automatic belayers are sort of like seat belts. They sense a fall and jerk you to a stop pretty quick. There were about 4 or 5 different colored routes and each one had a different degree of climbing difficulty.
Cheyenne Stewart started this sport in grad school. "I chose this because it was the only sport that totally took my mind off school," she said. "It's a great workout and climbing is a mental puzzle that you have to solve by thinking several steps ahead. It is impossible to think of anything else when you do it."
Thomas Mack was busy wrapping a finger with a Popsicle stick and tape. "I smashed it yesterday," he said. "I'm rebuilding a flat head six and somehow whacked it." You might recognize Thomas driving an old blue and white VW bus with a 1937 VW emblem on the front.
Music meant to inspire good climbing was pulsing from a boom box; and athletes cheered each other on from the ground and clapped and yelled when a competitor reached the top especially after a challenging climb.
If some of the photos look a little foggy, it might be because there was a lot of talc powder in the air. They thrust their hands into little bags of the white powder as they climb to keep their hands from getting slippery from sweat. Sweaty hands means falling off the wall if you aren't careful.
I watched Tilly Bennett stop climbing from time to time and strike an artistic pose. It looked to me like she was just stopping to admire the climb. "I was stopping to rest," she said. "You are right, tho. The first time I saw this sport I watched a man climb and I thought he looked like a dancer just dancing up the wall. I wanted to do that. I am seeking an intuitive way to climb where my hands, feet and body move together in a fluid dance. The more ways one can hold or press, the more fluid one can become."
I expected to see a lot of small, monkey sized people at the competition, but there were gorilla and chimpanzee sized folks too. It didn't seem to matter, everyone attacked their routes and became successful over the course of the four hour competition.
The top three finishers were Kole Stewart in 1st, his wife Cheyenne Stewart in 2nd and Jenn Burton in 3rd. There were cash prizes and a whole lot of other prizes donated by the Great Outdoors Shop.
I saw Britney leaving the PAC in her exercise clothes this morning and asked if the competition had taxed her. "Oh yes," she said. "My quads are really sore, but so are my fingers and the balls of my feet. But I feel great."
One last thing before I go, there are quite a few shots of Cheyenne, because she was so darn good. Look at all those different positions she is in as she climbs that wall. There must be a lot to learn by just studying her work.
Thanks to everyone for helping me understand this sport. Thank you very much Dawn Ballou at Pinedale Online for hiring me to do this community story. Please let me know if I need to correct anything in the story. You may take low rez photos from this story for personal use, just credit the photographer, please. Hi rez images are for sale. firstname.lastname@example.org