A pair of youth athletes climbed their way to gold at the UIAA North American Youth Mixed Climbing Competition last month, literally.
Karlee Hall of Jaffray, 17, and Noah Beek from Cranbrook, 18, trekked out to Durango, Colorado on Dec. 30 and 31 to scale rock formations, winning first place in their respective categories.
Both athletes are relatively new to the sport of mixed climbing — essentially ice climbing without the ice, using tools like ice axes and foot spikes called crampons. In fact, the competition in Durango was Hall’s first.
“I had no idea what to expect because it was my first mixed climbing competition,” said Hall. “But once I got there and felt the atmosphere and got a feel for what the competition was going to be like, the nerves kind of fell away.”
For the final competition, athletes were placed in isolation to prevent them from seeing the final route they would have to scale.
“That was pretty nerve-wracking because you didn’t know what to expect and you didn’t know how the route would play out,” said Hall. “But as soon as you get out there and get climbing, all the nervousness and all the anxiety goes away and you focus on climbing. You tune out the crowd and focus on the climb.”
Having begun rock climbing a year ago, Hall said that she fell in love with the mental aspect of the sport.
“It’s kind of fun just playing around with moves, problem-solving and figuring out how to make a move possible as I climb,” said Hall.
Teen climber from Jaffray Karlee Hall made an impressive showing at her first climbing competition last month. — Submitted
Training hard for three months under their Cranbrook-based coach Gord McArthur, Hall hopes that one day she won’t have to explain terms like ‘dry tooling’ (using ice axes to climb) or ‘moves’ (getting into position to climb the wall itself) to people and that her sport will be introduced into the Olympics.
“I’m hoping to take this as far as I can go. I want to demonstrate this sport and help to make it as a medal sport in the Olympics and hopefully compete there,” said Hall ambitiously.
Hall and Beek are already setting their sights on new heights in Switzerland, where they will compete in the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championship hosted in Saas Fee on January 17 and 18.
Hall continued to exhibit a certain sense of confidence now that she knows how the mental game of competitions will play out.
“At this point, I don’t feel nervous at all,” she admits, “because now I know how a competition works and what I need to focus on and your headspace and mental thinking … so I’m definitely not feeling as nervous as I was for Durango.”
Deep breaths and deep digs into the rock face will be Hall’s game plan for the competition as she continues to ascend in the sport’s ranking.