February 3, 2023 | SPORTS | By Pierce Sullivan | Photo by author
The sports scene at Colorado College is strong and vibrant, but too much of this athletic achievement often does not get the recognition it deserves. In the spirit of telling these stories, every block I will be tagging along with an athlete or team at one of their practices. Covering club sports and individually competing athletes, I am on a mission to embarrass myself miserably in an attempt to hold my own against these high-caliber student athletes.
This past Monday, the CC Climbing Team was kind enough to welcome me to their practice at their climbing gym of choice, the Springs Climbing Center, located about 10 minutes north of CC.
The CC Climbing team is strong. Very strong. Last year, the team sent four athletes, Noah Wheeler ‘25, Ben Blackmore ‘23, Manny Kahne ‘25 and Conor Wellman ‘25 to the National Collegiate Climbing Championships in Bridgeport, PA, with Blackmore and Wheeler earning second and third place, respectively. Blackmore then went on to place eleventh at the Collegiate Climbing World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
A statistic like eleventh in the world is very impressive, don’t get me wrong, but it can be hard to understand what that actually means. A stat on paper is one thing, but attempting to keep up really put things in perspective. In other words, I got seriously humbled at climbing practice.
The CC Climbing Team is clearly serious, but that is not to say that they do not enjoy themselves every once in a while. The team has no coach, practices lack formal structure and include active use of the ping pong table at the gym. It felt casual, fun, and despite the high-level of climbing, welcoming.
The one intimidating part, which needs to be addressed, is climbing lingo. Meathooks, bat-hangs, dynos, kneebars, chossy and so many more absurd turns of phrase filled the air within the climbing gym. Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster is not cut out for this kind of niche slang.
My feeble attempts to climb were aided by Nicole Peirson ‘25 and Eliza Broan ‘25, who were kind enough to coach me through a couple “easy” climbs. My first climb, a V2, which is the second easiest climbing grade, proved to be a rather formidable enemy. At long last, having conquered the climb, I proceeded to watch a child no older than the age of six make easy work out of that route. Frustrating and humbling, to say the least.
I then watched Broan and Peirson easily scramble up climbs with holds that were more akin to hanging from the ceiling by palming a basketball than they were holding onto a handle.
After a couple other climbs, I was starting to feel my arms burn. Not burn normally, but in the weird, strange muscles that I did not know even existed. Isaac Greenwald ‘25 spoke to me about this and how climbing works muscles that no other sport targets.
How many other sports can you think of in which the athletes spend hours and hours a week working exclusively on finger strength?
Greenwald discussed how climbing is unique in the sense that there is not a lot of translation between it and other sports. It’s not like lacrosse and hockey, for instance, where speed, strength and spatial awareness easily carry over from the field to the ice, and vice versa. The muscle groups and agility cannot be found anywhere else besides climbing. This made me feel a little bit better about my abysmal performance.
My overall takeaways are as follows: climbing is hard and the CC Climbing Team makes it look easy. Especially given how little support and recognition the team gets from the administration and overall student body, what they do is remarkable.