Climbers reach for the top as SLC hosts national bouldering competition

Posted at 10:06 PM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-04 00:06:14-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A national competition kicked off in Salt Lake City on Friday—for bouldering.

Industry leaders said the climbing sport is growing in popularity, and people from all over the country flew in to compete and watch the intense two-day USA Climbing Bouldering Open National Championships.

On Friday, competitors waited for hours for their chance to take on one of the walls during the trials part of the competition.

“You have four minutes, to not only figure it out but do the boulder, which is difficult,” said Trevor Roosen, who traveled to Salt Lake City with a team from Bend, Oregon.

“It's like a puzzle trying to figure out how to do it,” explained Joseph Diaz, a coach from Sacramento, California.

They both competed against the clock, using an intense feat of strength mixed with slow, specific strategy between each hold.

“Sometimes there's very intricate movement between holds that you have to really focus on,” Diaz said.

Nearly 200 men and women gave it their all, with a crowd cheering each person on. The enthusiasm reflects the trend.

“Across the country and in our city, we're just seeing the growth of this sport,” said Jeff Pedersen, CEO of Momentum Indoor Climbing.

Those at the event said the interest in bouldering has exploded in recent years.

Pedersen has watched it grow in Salt Lake City. He said in the '80s, it was a little-known sport that involved climbing on artificial walls in people’s houses.

Today, Momentum Indoor Climbing has three locations in the area and two in Texas.

“We've got all these climbing gyms right here in town,” Pedersen said. “We've got youth programs, fitness areas, adult programs--anything you want to do, to take your climbing to the next level, we’ve got here in Salt Lake City."

The sport will even join the 2020 Olympics.

“I like the fact that it's different,” said Kynan Waggoner, CEO of USA Climbing. “It's not a traditional sport here in the United States.”

Bouldering, Waggoner explained, goes beyond just reaching for the next hold and pushing your physical limits. He said it’s about how climbers learn and grow mentally as well.

“Self-sufficiency, dedication, working hard in order to achieve--there are just so many life lessons that are inherent in this sport,” Waggoner said.

Climbers said taking a weekend to compete and watch others is an opportunity to grow and soak up inspiration.

“It's really cool to not only see everybody else climb, but learn from them,” Roosen said.

Not to mention, it’s just plain fun.

The Bouldering Open Nationals run through Saturday, February 4 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.