Last weekend we attended Grip Fest at The Rock Lounge in Durango for the SCS (Sport Climbing Series) Youth Competition. From ages 12 to 17, we witnessed the next generation of girls (and boys) crushing some pretty difficult lead routes. Stonewear provided several tops and bottoms as raffle prizes, swag for attendees, and we had a chance to check out the comp and catch up with a few of the athletes.
The Rock Lounge offers a number of climbing programs headed up by professional climber and owner of the gym, Marcus Garcia. Kids, teens and adults of all ages attend weekly training sessions at the gym where they build strength, solve problems and learn teamwork.
Competitors like Soma Smith (age 14), Maddie Strum (age 15), and Kelsey Pool (age 17) are members of the Colorado climbing league and attend Durango High School. What is most inspiring about these athletes is how climbing and competing builds character and shapes the lives of these young women in a positive direction.
“Girls are really competitive,” says Maddie of her outlook on competing in a male dominated sport. “Once you get into a sport whether it’s dancing or climbing, we can take it pretty seriously.” Her aspiration in 2015 is to revisit the Nationals Speed Climbing event and to “ultimately improve my speed and represent the girls on my team.”
Competing and rock climbing in general builds confidence and strength, while also tapping one’s mental fitness. Strategy, pushing through fear, and good communication skills with your climbing partner is as important as the physical aspects.
Of course whenever it comes to competing, there is a fair amount of pressure. “Everyone gets nervous,” says Soma Smith. “If you’re not nervous, you’re not human! I block everything out when I’m climbing and tell myself to calm down. Most importantly I have fun and try not to get angry or all emotional about it. After all there is more to life than just pulling on plastic holds!”
Sound advice from a girl who is turning 14 this month, Soma has been climbing since she “could walk” and her older brother and teammate Skylar is her mentor. Even her Mom, Shannon Smith, has recently taken up climbing to “keep up with the kids and build strength in my arms and shoulders.” There is no doubt the positive impact climbing has on the lives of individuals and families.
The genuine camaraderie amongst teammates and competitors was evident from the start. Despite competing against one another, the team earnestly watched their friends compete and enthusiastically cheered each other on. According to Kelsey Pool, who is new on the team and a first-time competitor, “Everyone is incredibly nice and so helpful. Even though I am new to the team and got started a little later than some of my teammates, I feel encouraged and supported by everyone around me.”
We could feel it too. We hope this post inspires our readers to give climbing a try, maybe do something you’ve never done before like sign up for a class or comp. Who knows? It may even change your life.
Congrats to the girls for a great showing in Durango. Soma and Maddie both placed 2nd in their respective divisions and Kelsey, who was the sole competitor in her division and a first time competitor, took a well-earned 1st place. Climb on!