In a specialized gym, 50 CSU students repeatedly climb walls filled with tiny, colorful rocks. Coaches run around on the ground a hundred feet below, calling out instructions. This is a typical climbing team practice.
In only its second year of competing, the CSU climbing team hopes to place well in its first year at nationals.
The team qualified for nationals last year, but was unable to attend due to a lack of funding.
This year though, the climbing team is an official, university-registered club, and will likely receive enough funding to attend nationals if applicable. Team captain Owen Graham believes that not only can his team qualify, but it can win.
In competitive climbing, teams participate in both bouldering and lead climbing. Bouldering involves shorter and more powerful climbing without a rope and lead climbing involves longer climbing that is anywhere from 30 to hundreds of feet. Lead climbing is based more on endurance.
Nearly all competitive climbing takes place indoors.
“It’s more controlled (indoors) and you can actually have a level playing field,” Graham said.
The climbing team meets every Monday and Thursday night at Miramont North for several hours.
“It’s kind of (the coaches) running around and seeing, ‘Hey, you should do this, or you need to work on this,’ so it’s kind of more of a skill-based thing, in figuring out what they need to work on,” Graham said. “It (can) be either footwork, what strength they need to work on, if they need to read the climb better (and) the last part is kind of a workout.”
Graham took over the team last year and that same year, he led it to its first set of competitions. Graham has been climbing for 11 years – his love for climbing is why he moved from Texas to Colorado.
Hailey Bridgewater, a senior health and exercise science major, was recruited by Graham to help build the team and to serve as a coach. Bridgewater said that she loves coaching because she gets to share her love of climbing with others. Bridgewater has been climbing for 9 years.
“Every time you try something new, it is like a new problem, and you have to figure out how to solve it,” Bridgewater said. “I’ve always liked that – those physically and mentally challenging activities. (Climbing) is also a fun way to get exercise.”
Bridgewater also agrees that the team will perform well in formal competitions this year, starting in February.
According to Bridgewater, the only thing holding the team back last year was a lack of funds and that this year, funding should not be a problem.
“We’ve got a really strong team this year,” Bridgwater said. “A lot of people are really excited to go to competitions and train hard to do well at those competitions.”
Ben Wolf, sophomore climbing team member and natural resource recreation and tourism major, said that although he has been climbing for less than a year, he feels welcomed by the team.
“We’re such a wide range of skill levels on the team,” Wolf said. “Everybody is really nice and really polite, and just really excited to see everybody crush whatever they’re working on. It’s a really supportive environment.”
Wolf also appreciates that although most on the team are excited for competition, the team encourages a laid-back environment for anyone who loves to climb, regardless of their motivation or experience.
“I’m kind of at the point where I’m not taking the competitions super seriously,” Wolf said. “I’m more just doing it for fun and for the experience and the environment.”
Collegian Staff Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.