Vail climbing team soars at nationals |

Vail climbing team soars at nationals

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyLogan Jauernigg reaches for a hold during the American Bouldering Series National Championships on Feb. 15.

VAIL, Colorado ” The Vail Athletic Club Climbing Team is more than a rock wall and a few people with carabiners.

It’s a community driven by its passion to touch the sky. The strength, creativity and will-power the sport demands is attracting more climbers to the club.

There are currently 45 kids competing on the team, and more people come in just to leave solid ground for a while. Not only are the number of members building, so is the talent.

Three athletes and one coach recently competed in the American Bouldering Series National Championships at The Spot in Boulder. Logan Jauernigg and Nina Riggio both took 15th in their age divisions. Erik Warmenhoven claimed 23rd.

Coach Adam Markert also did well at nationals. He was the 11th American in the open division standings. The top-12 finish is significant because it qualifies Markert for the World Cup bouldering event at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.

Markert credits climbing sessions with younger athletes for helping him in Boulder. That’s the thing, everyone goes up together at the club.

“My most satisfying moment is flipping a kid’s brain from frustrated to fun,” Markert said about coaching. “Frustrated to fun is the most coachable moments I can find.”

Quick learners

When a new athlete joins the club, it normally doesn’t take long for them to become a part of the team. Coach Larry Moore said he’s amazed by how quickly a new climber starts to improve.

“The biggest transformation is the level of confidence they have in their own abilities,” Moore said. “It’s amazing to watch the kids grow for three to four years. They are continually getting stronger and more experience. That builds more confidence.”

Learning proper climbing technique and mental exercises help accelerate the development. For instance, during a competition, the athletes aren’t allowed to see the wall, or “problem,” they are supposed to climb until right before its their turn. Instead of immediately grabbing holds, Moore coaches his athletes to take a minute and make a plan.

“We watch movies in our brain,” Riggio, 14, said. “You have to see yourself doing it. People watch you like you’re crazy. Your brain sees it before you have to put your muscle power to it.”

It still isn’t easy. Athletes get four minutes to complete the problem, but if they can’t reach the top, they are awarded points based on how far up the wall they get.

“I like the challenge,” Warmenhoven, 14, said “(I like) how fun it can be, how humbling it is.”

Mastering the mental and physical aspects of climbing has benefits beyond the wall. Climbing helps in everything from school work to skiing, the athletes said.

“I like how you can get really creative about (climbing),” Riggio said. “You can do something different from everybody else. Whatever problem you are doing, there’s so many ways you can do it.”

“I think it helps a lot (in other sports),” Jauernigg, 13, said. “It helps with upper-body strength, balance, everything.”

Whatever the athletes gain by climbing, they plan to keep going up.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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