PNW climbers reach new heights

NINA WILLIS | Evergreen reporter

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Climbers from universities across the Northwest pushed their abilities to the limit in the 16th annual Bouldering Competition on Saturday at the WSU climbing wall.

Competitors in two heats climbed a variety of routes of their choice, with more difficult routes scoring more points. If a participant could climb the whole route without falling, they earned an additional 50 points. The climbers kept track of their progress on scorecards, asking witnesses to sign the cards to confirm which routes they completed.

Each climber’s five highest scores were tallied, and by 3 p.m. the top three competitors from the men’s and women’s divisions went to the finals. This consisted of three rounds, with specially marked routes for each division. Women climbed the paths marked with red squares while men took the ones marked with blue.

Each round increased in difficulty, leading up to a cave-like corner of the climbing wall, which featured smaller holds and uneven angles. None of the finalists completed the final course.

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In three final rounds, women’s division went first, starting with Abigail Dunn from UI. Next was Laura Pianowski from WSU, and then Tonya Bamboe from Liberty University. The men went after, starting with Vincent Mollicone from UW, Nick Flynn from UI and Taylor Wehr from UW.

For the finals, judges scored participants by the percentage of the climb they completed. Each hold they reached carried a certain point value, while each fall cost five points. As with the preliminaries, competitors earned 50 bonus points in addition to the full score if they completed the climb on their first try.

From the women’s division, Bamboe took first place, Pianowski took second and Dunn placed third. In the men’s, Flynn took first, Mollicone took second and Wehr placed third.

Bamboe also competed in last year’s Bouldering Competition. After getting a full-time job as a setter, she spent a lot of time training and wanted to see how much she improved from last year. Bamboe started bouldering two years ago and has fallen in love with the sport.

“I’m really comfortable reading beta, which is finding the easiest route to take from the ground,” Bamboe said. “I actually looked at the routes before the comp started and saw some things I knew I’d be really good at.”

Flynn said he had not done competitions in a couple years and decided this one would be fun to try. He usually climbs outdoors, but currently cannot due to the snow. Flynn said his favorite part of climbing is the community.

“You meet a ton of really cool people,” Flynn said. “I wouldn’t say climbing comps are really competitive. It’s more like a chill climbing session. No one’s ever trying to compete with you or trying to be better, it’s just having fun climbing.”

Staying motivated does present some difficulty, especially between work and school, Flynn said. Currently, he trains about six days a week normally and three to four days on competition weeks.

After the judges announced the winners, the finalists picked out an award from the prize table. Next, three participants from each advanced division picked out something from the table, and then three from each WSU recreation division claimed a prize. The rest were raffled off to the other participants.

The award table included a variety of baseball caps, several bags of climbing chalk, gift cards for a pair of La Sportiva Enduro climbing shoes and Mountain Khakis sporting goods, Rhino moisturizer and many other climbing-related products.

Micah Sundholm, representing WSU, participated in the first heat and decided to compete just for fun and to learn a bit more by climbing with others. The climbing wall had a variety of well-set routes with a lot diversity, he said, and it was fun just to look at the routes and figure out if he wanted to try the particular style of that climb.

“It’s both a mental and physical challenge,” Sundholm said. “It’s sort of like putting a puzzle together with your body and mind.”

Sundholm also said he definitely plans on competing again next year.

Noah Aigner, climbing wall manager, led the set-up of the competition routes. He first got involved with University Recreation by participating in a challenge course and he eventually applied for a job. Looking for some extra hours, he worked at the climbing wall and has stuck with it ever since.

Setup started last Monday, as staff took down the regular routes on the climbing wall, brought in the holds for the competition and set the routes over several days. Planning for the event began last summer, Aigner said.

Aigner said he tried to make the routes for the Bouldering Competition as flowing and natural-feeling as possible. While challenging the climber is important, the level of fun a climber has plays a role as well.

“We had a lot of guys trying our upper-end routes,” he said, “which is really cool to see because they are really tough. We wanted to push people, so it’s always awesome to see them trying it. Everybody climbed really strong, which is great because not everybody does on comp day.”