Climbing is on the rise for area high school clubs
CARBONDALE — The passion that Dave Meyer has for the sport he coaches is evident in the way he talks to the high school kids on his team.
He encourages. He cheers. He closely supervises. And, just like many coaches who work with high school athletes, he has one goal in mind for his team members.
“This is how I gauge success,” said Meyer, the coach of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School climbing team. “If we go to a competition and, after we’re finished, our kids are still excited about climbing, that’s something I consider to be extreme success.”
Extreme success is something the CRMS boys and girls climbing teams are used to in the competitive arena — the school won a girls state title in 2013 and a boys team title the year before. But unlike traditional winter sports such as basketball, swimming or wrestling, climbing has found its niche with a large percentage of the student body at the Carbondale boarding school.
Of the 164 students enrolled at CRMS, many of them are turned away after the 34 total roster spots are determined before the season. And many schools in Garfield County have followed CRMS’ lead, as Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge and Glenwood Springs also have climbing teams.
“It’s really cool to see people really getting into this as much as they have,” said Mike Schneiter, who has served as the coach and adviser for the climbing club at Glenwood Springs High. “This is a perfect place for us to have this interest, especially since we’re surrounded by world-class climbing in this area.”
No doubt, the high school-age climbers in the area take advantage of the prime climbing spots, which include Rifle Mountain Park along with the cliffs next to both No Name and Redstone. Having immediate access to that terrain has not only helped spark interest, but it’s helped produce high-quality climbers who have passed their mindsets and tactics on to others who are competing — or simply just climbing — for the first time.
“It’s kind of an [extreme] sport by nature,” said Nikken Daniels, a senior at CRMS who finished second in the state in climbing as a senior and third as a junior. “You go and you beat yourself up just to climb up a wall, and then you find yourself halfway up a ledge with no way down. But there’s also an extreme satisfaction that comes along with it. To see that you completely bested the rock and the route you were on makes you step back and say, ‘Wow.’”
Each of the area’s climbing teams compete in the Colorado High School Climbing League, a nonprofit organization that oversees the 38 climbing teams in Colorado. Four of those teams that compete in the league — CRMS, Roaring Fork, Glenwood and Coal Ridge — are among the 14 teams on Colorado’s Western Slope that compete in the statewide field.
The meets are big — a total of 122 high school climbers from around the Western Slope took part in a competition at the Glenwood Springs Community Center climbing wall. The scoring system used for the competitors is based on the climb’s level of difficulty on what is called the V-scale. It ranges from the extremely easy V-0 to V-15, a level of difficulty reserved only for some of the best climbers in the world.
“Typically, you’ll see some of the better climbers go up a V-1 or V-2 a couple of times just to warm up before they go into their regular runs,” Meyer said.
Daniels said that he’s completed routes that have reached the V-10 level, and he’s not the first local climber to do well in competition. CRMS had a state champion two years ago, Karla Vlatkovic, a Croatian who was regarded as one of the better younger climbers in the Northern Hemisphere when she won it to cap the 2012-13 season.
Meyer, who has coached climbing at the school for the past 15 years and the past six during the school’s affiliation with the CHSC, said that he and other coaches in the state have talked about trying to make climbing a sport sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association, the governing board for the state’s prep sports programs. The 38 teams in Colorado could make it a possibility — the number of CHSAA-sanctioned prep hockey teams in Colorado increased from 29 to 32 prior to this season.
Still, the consensus among the state’s climbing teams right now is to keep things the way they are. After all, they feel standing pat is a good way for the sport, and its passionate athletes and coaches, to continue growing.
“The league that we have has become established enough,” Meyer said. “It’s almost taken on a life of its own without the need for help. What we have is working very well, and we hope it can keep working.”
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