Vertical Twister |

Vertical Twister

Collin Szewczyk
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

SPRING VALLEY, Colorado – The Re-2 school bus pulled in to pick me up for a ride to campus. I wasn’t headed to class, but rather to check out a bouldering competition at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus.

The Coal Ridge climbing club coach, Bryan Gall, whom I’ve been great friends with for more than 20 years, had suggested that I cover a meet, and see what is happening with the local high school competitive climbing scene.

Sports such as football, basketball and soccer traditionally get far more media attention and it was time that local climbers got their due.

The Coal Ridge team was small in number, but high on energy.

Four students – Katey Gasaway, Connor Humphrey and Kobe Tharp, all freshmen, and junior Kade Nimori – greeted me as Gall explained that I was going to write a story about the meet.

“You should have no problem remembering me. I’m the only girl, and my name is on my shoes,” Gasaway said helpfully.

More students originally signed up, but Glenwood Springs had received its best snowfall of the year and Sunlight Mountain had finally opened for the season.

Not much can compete with fresh powder on opening weekend.

With assistant coach Dan O’Meara at the wheel, we departed the parking lot and headed south toward CMC.

“Freezeout!” Nimori yelled out. Freezeout is a game in which you open all the windows in a vehicle on a cold day and see who complains first.

Gall and I laughed, remembering times in high school playing that very game.

Nimori said he takes Freezeout to another level.

“I do it a little crazier than most, I take my shirt off,” he said.

Luckily, no windows were opened … or shirts removed.

Ignoring the powder, freshman Kevin Grivy eventually joined up with the team at CMC, too.

As climbers flowed into the dimly lit gym, they started looking for bouldering problems to assess for the comp.

More than 130 climbers came from many Western Slope schools.

Besides Coal Ridge, kids attended from Glenwood Springs, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Ouray-Ridgway, Gunnison, Montrose and Grand Junction. The latter featured students from Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade high schools.

The wall was set with a plethora of holds, cracks and varied overhangs of differing degrees of difficulty, each marked with a different colored piece of tape.

The tape was set as a map of how to complete each problem – a competitor must only grab or place a foot on the same colored hold, and follow the route to the top where a like-colored square of tape was placed. If the climber makes it to the square without falling and holds on with both hands (and is in control) within the square, he or she scores points based on the problem’s rating.

Essentially, it’s a vertical game of Twister.

Problems are also marked at the start with a letter and corresponding number, displaying the difficulty.

Problems marked with an “R” represent recreation level, or easiest, next is an “I” for intermediate, followed by “A” for advanced, and finally “O” for open, the most difficult. The associated numbers range from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 the most difficult.

At this competition the score for completing an R1 climb is 100 points, and, for successfully navigating a O10 climb, the competitor receives 4,000 points. The climbers may make many attempts at the comp, but only the top five scores figure into the final score.

There is no penalty for a fall, but the number of falls can come into play in the case of a tie; the climber with fewer falls wins.

Bouldering is hardly a fringe sport, and judging by the number of kids that filled the CMC gym, many more will be catching on in the upcoming years.

“It keeps growing in popularity,” said Glenwood Springs climbing club head coach Mike Schneiter. “As word of mouth spreads, we see more and more kids come out.”

Glenwood’s program is now in its fourth year.

“We have about 60 kids that will climb with us over course of the year,” Schneiter added.

The Coal Ridge team, known as the Titans of Climbing, showed few nerves while getting ready for the competition.

They stretched, ran about and checked out various problems, with Nimori often walking on his hands. Smiles were plentiful.

The Titan program is in its third year, but only its second participating in climbing competitions.

“We also get out often on real rock for practice,” Gall said. “We get permits from the White River National Forest to take the kids climbing up Main Elk [north of New Castle].”

After a quick refresher on the rules and scoring by Schneiter, the kids were off.

The climbers line up in front of a problem that they would like to attempt and wait their turn.

When a climber gets the opportunity, they tear into the problem at a frantic pace.

Awaiting climbers get to study the problem by watching those who go first. It’s a learning game.

Nimori, who’s been climbing for four years, enjoyed the CMC wall in what was only his second comp.

“The rec level climbs were much harder at the last comp at CRMS,” Nimori explained. “This wall is a more accurate wall as far as ratings go.”

Although the young Titans of Climbing didn’t place in this particular event, they showed much improvement.

“They’ve been showing personal growth and are overcoming individual challenges,” Gall said. “The team is progressing well, and Connor especially had a strong comp. … I’m proud of them.”

The Titans of Climbing will head to the Grand Junction Climbing Center this Saturday for the next challenge.

Even though it’s a competition, the emphasis is on fun.

Kids from “rival” schools helped each other and lent encouraging words. All the climbers have a spotter, but when someone falls, everyone nearby offers a hand in support.

“These comps are fun,” Nimori said. “It’s very easy to make friends here.”

It’s how high school athletics should be.

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