Over 80 competitors from around the country participated in a national climbing event Saturday in Christiansburg. The morning session included youngsters from seven to 17, and afternoon competitors over the age of 17 included representatives from Radford University and Virginia Tech with others from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Jody Freeman of Blacksburg participated in adult climbing on Saturday and took top honors. He has been climbing for the past four years and is hoping it could lead to something even bigger.
“I want to participate in the American Ninja program that you see on TV,” he said.
For now the 17-year-old is training harder and harder and will have wait as participants have to be at least 21 years old to participate on American Ninja.
Freeman has gone as far as to build obstacles in his own backyard and believes climbing will help him to be stronger in the future.
The competition is typically held inside on a climbing wall. Crimper’s has eight sets of climbing walls that are open to the public when not hosting competitions like the one this past weekend.
John Johnson is a Blacksburg native, and he and his wife Danielle Lehsten have been climbing for over 13 years. They opened Crimper’s in 2012.
Climbing has been a competitive sport for years, but it has gone largely unnoticed. Johnson hopes events like this weekend’s tournament will help increase its popularity here in the New River Valley.
“It is getting more popular, and we were hoping this event would bring people who like doing it together,” he said.
A 2015 report in the Climbing Business Journal said commercial indoor climbing facilities grew by 10 percent from the previous year. Current numbers show 388 of the facilities are open in the U.S. In addition, many recreation departments have added climbing walls to their inventory.
The same report shows that universities and some high schools are now offering climbing opportunities.
But Lehsten said there is one-sided problem in the sport of climbing.
“It is a male-dominated world,” she said.
Her hope is to encourage more females to become involved. Lehsten is one of only a few female setters in the country that hold the climbing line for climbers during competition.
“We need to promote the sport to females and encourage them to get involved,” she said.
Lehsten is teaching Freeman to become a setter. She worked with him during Saturday’s activities.
There are three categories in climbing: lead, speed and bouldering. In lead climbing, individuals start at the bottom of a route and must climb within a time frame. Competitors try to set the pace and win with the best time to the top.
Speed climbing can be done as an individual or as a team, and again, the climb is timed.
Bouldering consists of climbing with short problems with bigger or smaller routes and grab points. Winners are determined on the amount of problems completed.
Climbing will officially become sport in the next Olympics (2020), and there is even a United States Climbing Association, which sanctioned Thursday’s event in Christiansburg.
By the 19th century, the sport developed into a recreational pastime. The idea of a full-blown sport started in early 2000, and indoor facilities started opening around the world.
Crimper’s is the only facility in the New River Valley and provides nearly 40,000 sq. ft. of climbing.
Everyone should remember that climbing has dangers and is a physically demanding sport. A fall from any height can cause serious injuries, and proper training is recommended.
For more information on climbing, contact Crimper’s at www.crimpersclimbing.com.