Climbers seek height in Vail |

Climbers seek height in Vail

Ian Cropp
SPT Bouldering PU 11-18-06

VAIL – Clint Lett was hours away from home Saturday.When the 15-year old from Wichita, Kan. took to the Vail Athletic Club’s climbing wall, however, he found some familiar terrain.Lett, like most of the participants in Saturday’s American Bouldering Series event, looked to gain more experience in a sport that has piqued his interest.”I really got into climbing this summer. That’s when I really started training and going to the climbing club,” said Lett, who gets in plenty of practice on a converted pair of 80-foot silos.The competition featured kids, teenagers and adults from places as far away as Louisiana.

“It’s kind of crowded, but that’s good,” said Matt McCoy a student at Louisiana Tech who made the trip up with almost 20 others. “(I’m here) just to get some experience and hopefully complete a few routes.”Climbers took turns solving problems – predetermined routes on the wall marked with colored tape – trying to grab as many holds as possible. Several people made their way up the 2,200 square-foot, 19-foot high structure with holds of different sizes and shapes, while onlookers provided support.”Everyone helps everyone,” said Theresa Rhode of Golden, who was competing along with her daughter, Courtney. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, put your left hand here instead of your right hand. They are helpful and supportive and cheer when you finish something. The teenage boys are actually nice to the old people, which doesn’t’ normally happen in the other sports. It’s a cool atmosphere, a very cool crowd.”

With four different divisions and 40 total problems, there were plenty of options for all climbers. While those in the open and advanced division struggled with inverse angle holds at the base of the wall, some 8-year olds climbed to nearly four times their height.”I solved five problems,” said Marrlee Roetzel, 8, who particularly enjoyed the wall. “I like it because it’s my home gym.” Roetzel started climbing at the tender age of 2 and has her sights set on tackling intermediate holds next year.”Climbing’s fun, but it gets hard quickly,” Roetzel said.”It’s way harder than skiing,” said Rhode, who hit the slopes before Saturday’s competition. “They set very hard problems, but it’s very fun.”Others were saving all their energy for the competition.”We’re heading up the mountain tomorrow. We’ll do this first, and then cool off by skiing,” McCoy said.

Fellow climbers judged each other, although most competitors were more concerned with their own progression.”I love competing,” Lett said. “It’s just me against the rock. If I fall, I can’t blame it on anyone else. It’s just me. You keep on progressing … and if you fall down, you can always go to some other (problem).”Each climber had a large and vigilant audience – for good reason.”That’s how you watch how to do it, so you can steal from them,” Rhode said.And for newcomers to the gym, the terrain was something to learn and conquer.”You experience something different every time,” Lett said. “There are new holds and new (problem) setters.” Regardless of what Lett, or others are climbing, there’s a few constants.”It’s power, technique and elegance,” Lett said. “It’s everything mixed together.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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