Climbing club elevates members to new heights

Article Originally Published by John Fields on North Texas Daily

Maintaining an uplifting community is the climbing club’s main goal. Whether it be at practice or while competing, every climber supports and encourages each other, even those of other teams.

“Everyone’s so supportive, no matter where you come from,” senior club president Carol Prewitt said. “I’m always cheering on the UT climbers because I’m good friends with some of them.”

This support is one of the main differences between climbing and other sports. The climbing community prioritizes such camaraderie over the competition itself, encouraging everyone to do their best.

“You won’t even know some people, even from the opposite team, and they’ll still be cheering you on,” freshman climber Travis Thweatt said. “It’s a lot different from anything I’ve done.”

Prewitt believes this community environment was instrumental in keeping her involved with climbing.

“When I first started climbing, I was really self-conscious because I was climbing with a lot of more experienced climbers,” Prewitt said. “It was really intimidating, but because they were so supportive, they kept me going to the gym, pushing me to climb and not giving up.”

Having an uplifting environment has been an attraction for new climbers as recently as last semester, helping the team continue to grow with new members like Thweatt.

“I started climbing right when I got here, I just went to free week in August,” Thweatt said. “I was like, ‘This is fun, everyone’s really nice here,’ then I started climbing a lot more.”

This growth has paid dividends in recent years, most notably as the club sent eight climbers to the national competition last spring. The spring semester is the club’s main competition season, and they are currently approaching the end of a stretch of five weekends in a row of competitions, including meets at Texas Tech University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Baylor University. These events can be very different, however, depending on which division of climbing they focus on.

There are three different divisions of climbing: speed climbing — in which climbers attempt to complete a route as fast as possible — sport climbing — which is done at a climber’s own pace with ropes, the goal being to finish the route without losing grip of the holds —and bouldering — which is done with no ropes at lower heights, focusing more on raw strength and power.

There are distinctly different challenges with these different events, pushing climbers to improve different skills.

“I don’t always do a lot of rope climbing, I do a lot more bouldering,” freshman climber Garret Rackley said. “It’s like running a sprint versus a marathon. With [rope climbing], you’re doing a long one … your grip starts to loosen and then you can’t even unclip yourself from the rope.”

The competitions are also divided into four classes of competitors — beginner, intermediate, advanced and open — which allow climbers of any skill level to compete.

“If you’re brand new to climbing, you can totally still go compete,” Prewitt said. “That’s what makes the competitions really great because I know a lot of people are scared thinking they can’t compete if they’re not that good yet.”

Scoring for competitions is based on the difficulty of a climber’s route, as well as the time taken to complete the route in the case of speed-climbing. By participating in one collegiate event prior to the regional competition, a climber qualifies for regionals.

From there, the top 20 climbers advance to the national competition, which will be held in Englewood, Colorado, this year. This is home to the largest indoor climbing facility in the United States, according to an article by the Denver Post’s The Know.

To prepare for these events, club members utilize some specific workouts outside of climbing to improve their skills.

“When I was climbing, I did a lot of core workouts … and bar workouts for the upper body,” Prewitt said. “A lot of my other climbers do hang boarding which is helping with your finger strength.”

Though Prewitt is unable to climb or work out currently due to an injury, she continues to attend practices and support her fellow club members.

Junior climber Gavin Loera uses a slightly different approach to gain strength for climbing.

“I go running a lot just to try and keep endurance up,” Loera said. “Really, you’re not supposed to put on too much muscle … You don’t want to have that extra weight, so I try not to do too much weight lifting, mostly keep it to calisthenics [and] body-weight workouts.”

At the end of the day, this community of climbers tries to make these challenges easier by always supporting and encouraging each other.

“The climbing community is truly amazing,” Prewitt said. “No matter if you’re a brand new climber or a super experienced climber, everyone’s there being supportive.”

Featured Image: The UNT Climbing Club practices at the Pohl Recreation Center on Feb. 20, 2020. Image by Oscar Lopez

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Source: North Texas Daily