VAC climbers reach new heights |

VAC climbers reach new heights

VAIL – A group of local youngsters knows what it takes to climb to the top of its world.

Six young climbers spent last weekend in Arizona competing against some of the nation’s top climbers.

The Vail Athletic Club’s youth climbing team sent six climbers to Tucson, Ariz., for the USA Climbing American Bouldering Series (ABS) Divisional Championships. They’re among 180 competitors trying qualify for the national championships.

Ethan Pitcher,11, was the top local finisher with a third place. That’s good enough to qualify to compete in the nationals in Colorado Springs.

The top seven in each of five age divisions and two gender categories advance to the nationals, and at the nationals the top four qualify for the national climbing team, said coach Larry Moore.

For the locals, the Divisional finishes rolled out like this:

• Ethan Pitcher, thrd in the 11-year-old category

• Jessie Hawkins, 11th in the 13-year-old category

• Brody Nielsen, 12th in the 8-year-old category.

• Hannah Peterson, 14th in the 15-year-old category

• Benji Dantas, 18th in the 7-year-old category

• Amalia Manning, 13th in the 10-year-old category

It’s a long, hard climb to the nationals, Moore said. It’s invitation only and more than 180 climbers competed at the regional level.

Competitions are modeled on the World Cup event you’ve seen at the Teva Mountain Games. It’s also on the short list as an Olympic event for the 2020 Olympic Games.

The American Bouldering Series is a nationwide series that includes local events at gyms throughout the U.S. Do well enough at the local level and you’re invited to the regionals in Fort Collins, as 18 local Vail Athletic Club climbers were.

From there, it’s on to Tuscon and the Divisional championships. The VAC team qualified 12 for the Divisionals, and six made the trip.

“This bouldering competition is based on difficulty, with each climber being scored on how high up the wall they are able to climb using only specific, marked holds on an indoor climbing wall,” Moore said.

From each Divisional championships, athletes in each age category and gender can advance to compete at the National Championships in Colorado Springs. Finish well enough there and you qualify for the U.S. Youth Climbing Team.

The Vail Athletic Club is one of the smallest climbing gyms in the nation, yet continues to produce nationally ranked climbers every season for the past six years, Moore said.

The VAC climbing team program is composed of three teams, the Devo team for 5 and 6 year old beginning climbers, the Junior A-Team for 7 to 17 year old beginner/intermediate climbers, and the A-Team for the most elite, competitive climbers.

Climbers train year round indoors and climb outdoors on real rock throughout the summer.

For information call Moore at 970-477-3239.

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