Competitive climbing taken to new heights

Legendary  mountaineer  George Mallory once responded to the question of why to climb Everest by simply saying: “because it’s there” — well, so is the Gutterson climbing wall and along with it, the UVM climbing team.

They are open to anyone, no matter your experience level. The club focuses not only on the challenge of the climbs themselves, but also the exercise, the community and especially the enjoyment that encompasses the sport.

The team is relatively new, and was brought back to UVM three and a half years ago after it had died out during the ’90s. 

Senior Isaac Grosfelv-Katz and recent graduate Maureen Whalley created the club as a means to get out, be active and have some fun. 

The two current coaches, Grosfelv-Katz and junior Evan Caha, are frequently trying to recruit new members and help develop their climbing skills.

“It’s really about getting together, having fun and climbing,” Caha said.

According to both coaches, there  is  no required practice and attending competitions is not mandatory since the goal of the club is to create a good-natured climbing community and provide the opportunity to get better while meeting new people who share a similar interest.

The positive physical benefits climbers get through the sport are only added perks.

“It’s a good way to get in touch with climbers at school,” freshman Eleanor Krause said.

“There’s a lot of them.”

With the creation of Collegiate Climbing Series (CCS) last year, the team has a bright future.

The organization is making a push to increase the numbers of climbers nationwide, as well as to develop a national collegiate season with six regions, five competitions per region and nationals, which will take place this year in Texas.

During the competitions, UVM regularly sees opposition from schools all over the upper Northeast, including Jackson State, Castleton College, UNH, Dartmouth and Middlebury.

Ultimately, the CCS hopes to gain the status of a sanctioned NCAA sport and eventually, even that of the Olympics, their website stated.

The second CCS season will begin in the spring.

Nonetheless, the climbing team has remained busy this year with the American Bouldering Series (ABS) events.

So far, they have attended two ABS competitions, including one in early October that marked the first-ever climbing competition hosted by UVM. 

UVM boasted two of the top 10 climbers of the competition: freshman Coby Unger, who finished in fifth place, followed by Caha in sixth.

“You get as much as you put in,” Grosfelv-Katz said.

With the next event held at Petra Cliffs on Nov. 21, the climbing team once again proved that putting in time, effort while having fun gets people on podiums.