Gypsum hosts bouldering competition Saturday |

Gypsum hosts bouldering competition Saturday

Derek Franz
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyA young gun practices climbing at the Gypsum Rec Center. The rec center is hosting a bouldering competition Saturday, which will benefit the new youth climbing club there.

GYPSUM, Colorado –Anyone 6 or older is invited to crank plastic at Gypsum Recreation Center’s bouldering competition Saturday.

The entry fee is $10 and competitors will be split into two divisions: ages 6-15 and 16-and-older. Prizes will be given out to the top three in each division and an overall winner will also be determined.

Ages 6-15 compete at 10:30 a.m. while the 16-and-up division competes at 1 p.m. Competitors must be registered and signed in at least 30 minutes before their divisions’ starting times. Late arrivals will be disqualified.

“Bouldering” generally tests a rock climber’s power and technical skill. Such a route is usually low to the ground and only a few moves long, though each move is relatively difficult.

The judging process for competitive climbing has become much more refined through the years. So much so that climbing is currently being considered for a summer Olympic event in 2020.

The format of Gypsum’s bouldering competition will be much the same as anywhere else. The wall will be “fresh” when the competitors arrive – all the routes will be new, never seen before. Each competitor will have an hour to complete as many routes as he or she can. Points will be awarded according to each route’s difficulty and how many tries it takes a climber to do that particular route.

A judge will sign off for each route a climber completes. One climber might only do a few routes that are very difficult, while another might not do the hardest routes but succeed on a large number of easier ones. Either climber could win.

Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District’s Casey Shilling is the competition’s main organizer. He’s run, or helped run, climbing comps since about 2004 – several in Leadville, at the Colorado Mountain College Timberline Campus, and a few back in Pennsylvania.

As of press time, only a few people were signed up for Saturday’s comp.

“I’m hoping we have a bigger turnout,” Shilling said. “This is a benefit for the Youth Climbing Club, so having more people show up would be nice.”

He said the rec district is trying to get enough prizes so that every attendee can bring something home, but it’s hard with no idea how many people are going to come. Some of the prizes already lined up are donations from local businesses and rec center passes.

As far as future Gypsum Rec bouldering competitions, Shilling hasn’t been able to think that far ahead. However, he certainly plans on having another competition later this year. First, he’s got to see how this one goes.

Gypsum Rec’s Youth Climbing Club started in February after Shilling brought his climbing influence to the rec district last fall, even though his main job is assistant aquatics manager. He hopes the competition will help raise money for a fleet of climbing shoes, which would be used by visitors as well as Youth Climbing Club members.

A climbing shoe fits as snugly as possible. It’s designed to focus balance onto the big toe, like a ballet slipper, and has soft, “sticky” rubber to help grip the rock. Cost for a pair of such specialized shoes ranges from about $50 to $160.

“I started climbing when I was 14,” Shilling said. “I wore sneakers and when I got climbing shoes it made a huge difference.”

Shilling has been climbing since he was a Boy Scout.

“I thought, we have this awesome climbing wall and we don’t program on it enough,” he said. “It wasn’t difficult to start the climbing club – we had the interest.”

The club’s first session has 26 kids. There are 20 Tree Frogs (6- to 10-year-olds) and six Geckos (11- to 15-year-olds).

A session is seven weeks long and sessions are planned year-round except for a short break at the end of the summer (end of July through August). The club currently meets once a week for 45 minutes on Wednesday evenings. Cost is $30. However, Shilling is looking to increase the availability to twice a week.

“We have so many that couldn’t join we’re going to expand to Wednesdays and Saturdays,” he said. “Then they could climb one day or both days.”

Lucas Rivera helps Shilling coach the club.

“I just make a lesson plan and train, and the both of us run the classes,” Shilling said.

A session begins with a warm-up and stretch. Then the kids are split into two groups. One group learns a technique at one station and then trades with the other group.

“I’ve been trying to also leave enough time for a game at the end of each class to incorporate the lesson and have fun,” Shilling said.

One technique that’s not really taught to the kids is “dynoing” – where a climber launches him or herself into the air and catches a far-away hold.

“That one is forbidden,” Shilling said with a chuckle, citing the safety hazards of children rocketing themselves through the air on a climbing wall.

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