Go Outdoors: The road to China – competitive speed climbing

Nevin Fowler

Angela Stroud looks upward to plan her next moves as she practices sport climbing during practice Monday. Stroud, a dual chemistry and sociology major at CSU, has been climbing since she was in sixth grade. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)
Angela Stroud looks upward to plan her next moves as she practices sport climbing during practice Monday. Stroud, a dual chemistry and sociology major at CSU, has been climbing since she was in sixth grade. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)

It is often debated how successful people get their start. What is it, exactly, that compels and drives people to be great at what they do? If you ask Angela Stroud, it all starts with climbing trees.

Let`s be clear, climbing trees is not the goose that lays the golden egg of success, but if you are a climber, then it’s a pretty good start. In fact, climbing trees as a child is how it all began for Angela, a Colorado State University student who is currently in China competing in the collegiate speed climbing world championship. Obviously, Angela has graduated from tree climbing to rock climbing, as “Trees are too easy and kind of sappy.”

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Angela made the fateful transition from trees to rock in the 6th grade when she joined the Denver Climbing League. While climbing with the league, Angela achieved her first climbing success. She won the series, which gave her the opportunity to meet her hero, the late Dean Potter. The climbing legend gave Angela a poster on which he inscribed, “Angela, realize your dreams,” words she has carried with her to this day.

To be sure, Angela strives to fulfill these words of wisdom. Today, she is pursuing a double major in Chemistry and Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice to achieve her goal of working in the FBI`s Behavioral Analysis unit. Most people would consider this a full workload. Angela, however, dedicates an additional nine hours a week to the CSU Climbing Team. Last year, she won National Collegiate Speed Climbing title with the team. Climbing to her is not work, it is her passion.

Angela Stroud reaches to place her foot against a climbing wall during a climbing practice. Stroud, a dual chemistry and sociology major at CSU, has been climbing since she was in sixth grade. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)
Angela Stroud reaches to place her foot against a climbing wall during a climbing practice. Stroud, a dual chemistry and sociology major at CSU, has been climbing since she was in sixth grade. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)

Angela’s love for the sport is immediately evident in her excited smile when the conversation veers toward climbing. Out of humility, she does not talk readily about herself. But, if asked, Angela will tell you that she “Loves climbing slab,” though anything she has to mantle and stem is also “muy bueno.” She may even tell you about her current climbing project, Andrology in Jurassic Park near the town of Estes Park, Colorado. All of this passion is derived from what she describes as the “peace” she feels while attempting different climbing movements as well as the sense of community she finds among climbers. Though, admittedly, the adrenaline rush of taking a whipper, the climbing term for a fall, also plays a part in her love for the sport.

Falling, however, was also Angela’s primary fear as she prepared for the speed climbing championships in China. Seeing my surprised face when she said this, Angela quickly clarified that it was not falling that scared her, but rather the embarrassment that would accompany it. Speed climbing, after all, is not about climbing the hardest route. Rather, the route is moderately difficult and the goal is to see how fast you can climb it. The agility displayed by speed climbers is truly incredible. To see speed climbers in action, check out this video of the female world climbing record.

Before leaving for the championships, Angela was nervous and excited. She said that she is always a “basket of nerves in competitions.” It is obvious, though, that she is able to use this nervousness to drive her success. While Angela does not anticipate making a career out of climbing, she did say that if the FBI does not work out, she will become a “dirt-bag climber,” a term used to describe the lifestyle of overly obsessive climbers. Angela hopes to inspire people to try climbing and, in her words, “Don’t give up—if you fall, get back on the wall.” Advice that is applicable in all areas of life.

Collegian writer Nevin Fowler can be reached at blogs@collegian.com or on Twitter at @nevintfowler.