COLORADO SPRINGS — Climbing is like overcoming anything in life.
When young Brody Nielsen competes at this weekend’s national youth bouldering championships in Colorado Springs, he and the other competitors will look up at something that appears insurmountable — but isn’t, and they’ll attack it with a plan in mind.
They make sure they’re on solid footing, but they don’t look down.
Getting to the top on their first try gets them the most points. But if they fall, then they can try again.
Nielsen trains and competes with the Vail Athletic Club team that Larry Moore started eight years ago. He’s the 11th athlete from the club to make it to nationals.
This is the third year the nationals have been in Colorado Springs. It’s always indoors and always on the same wall on which the World Cup is competed in Vail each summer. The Vail World Cup climbing event is the only one in the U.S., held by Gondola One at the base of Vail Mountain.
The wall comes apart and can be transported for other competitions, and this weekend it’ll be in Colorado Springs.
The local kids get to train on it occasionally, but there’s not really any home court advantage, Moore said.
“The wall is the same, but it’s the assembly of the holds that creates the climbs, and those change every time,” Moore said.
The kids don’t get to see the problems before they climb them. They warm up next door in an auditorium, then they’re brought over when it’s their turn. They have four minutes to climb the first problem.
“Obviously, getting to the top is the primary goal. That’s how you earn the most points,” Moore said.
They get four minutes to rest between climbs, and more if they finish the climb in less than four minutes. Then they move on to the next problem. They’ll have to complete between four and six problems, and each one is different. Some test power, some flexibility, some a climber’s willingness to take a calculated risk.
The quicker they complete a problem, the more rest they get in between. That’s important when they’re on their fifth or sixth problem, Moore said.
Today is the qualifying round, Saturday is semifinals and Sunday is finals.
The top-three climbers are invited to join U.S.A. Climbing’s national team to represent the U.S. in the international competitions.
The Rocky Mountain region, where we are, is the nation’s toughest, Moore said. At the regional and divisional levels, the local kids have already competed against national champions.
“It’s a very challenging region to qualify for nationals,” Moore said.
You might think that because we live in the Rockies, the kids would have access to all kinds of wonderful climbing, but you would be wrong. The locals have the second smallest gym in the nation, a converted racquetball court. Some other facilities have climbing gyms measuring 30,000 square feet, Moore said.
The locals are well-rounded athletes, and that helps, Moore said. Nielsen is an exceptional Nordic athlete, and most of them are outstanding skiers. They climb for training, for charity fundraisers and for fun.
“Training and performing under pressure have paid off once again,” Moore said.
Local climbers from the Vail Athletic Club climbing team recently traveled to Boulder to compete in the USA Climbing ABS Regional Championships.
The climbers competed in bouldering, climbing close to the ground without a rope, like the popular World Cup event in Vail.
Eleven local athletes competed in the regionals in Boulder: Willie Girten, Lindsey Peterson, Jessie Hawkins, Ethan Pitcher, Amalia Manning, Sammy Cowell, Jackie Woods, Oliver Chantler, Benji Dantas, Lukas Bergsten and Brody Nielsen. Hawkins, Pitcher, Dantas, Nielsen, Chantler and Bergsten all qualified for the divisionals in Tuscon, Ariz.
From there, Nielsen qualified for this weekend’s nationals in Colorado Springs.
“It’s his first time to an event at this level, an incredible accomplishment,” Moore said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.