Two local climbers are hoping to make it to the next level on the competitive side of the sport.
And they’ve already begun to prove themselves in their first-ever competition.
Noah Beek and Karlee Hall have returned to Cranbrook as youth champions following their efforts at the inaugural UIAA Youth Mixed Climbing International competition in Colorado.
Though it was the debut event in North America, the two decided to make the trek at the urging of Gord McArthur, who has been competing on the UIAA world cup circuit for many years.
“We were also introduced to this comp by Gord and he felt we were good enough to go compete at this so we decided that this would take us to the next level, essentially,” said Hall.
Competition climbing is a little different from climbing out in the East Kootenay backcountry. In competitions, athletes are working their way up a man-made structure with routes set up by the organizers.
“Usually on a route, I take my time to figure it out; I usually take a bunch of rests and whatnot, but this was different,” said Beek. “If you fall, you’re out.”
Beek has been climbing for the last two years, while Hall has been at it for only one. Both met McArthur through climbing, who introduced them to mixed climbing—using ice-climbing tools to climb in a non-winter environment.
For the last three months, both Beek and Hall have been dry-tooling to train for mixed climbing competitions.
With a little push from McArthur, the two decided to make the trek to Durango to put their climbing skills to the test. They’ll also be leaving shortly for Saas Fee in Switzerland for the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championship.
“We went to Durango because we’ve never competed,” said Hall, “so we went to try to get some experience under our belt and get the feel for comps and understand how they work and how we do under pressure, because the one in Saas Fee is a World Championship, so it’ll be a lot bigger, so we wanted to get introduced through a slightly smaller competition.”
It’s not surprising that both had a bit of nerves when tackling the structure for the first time.
“During the qualifier rounds, I was fine, I wasn’t too nervous, but in the finials, they put you in isolation so you’re not allowed to see the route until you go out to climb in front of everybody, so I found that was a lot more nerve wracking,” said Hall.
“But as soon as you get out onto the wall and start climbing, all the anxiety goes away and you’re just focused on climbing and you don’t hear the crowds—everybody yelling at you, you tune out and it’s just really cool to see that happen.”
The Durango competition was valuable for both of them because it’ll give them a taste of what to expect when they get to Saas Fee for the world youth championship.
“At the start of the Durango competition—it was my first competition and I was worried and nervous about everything. What if I pop off? What if I fall? I didn’t know what to expect,” said Beek.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I’m feeling a little bit better going into it knowing how good of an experience the Durango competition was because I really enjoyed competing whereas before I was wondering if I’d be able to compete because of my headspace.
“So I’m definitely looking more forward to competing in Saas Fee than I was before Durango.”