So I have decided to finally try and enter to climbing community world beyond my little circle of friends. I noticed on Wednesday that Metrorock is going to be hosting the National Adult and Junior Difficulty and Speed climbing competitions over the July 4th weekend. Apparently, the winners will be going to Beijing in August for the World Cup of Climbing competition. Anyway, the sign stated that they were looking for volunteers to work the event either as a judge, belayer or as a roving "miscellaneous" volunteer. I thought to myself, "this sound pretty darn cool," and offered my services to help that weekend.
When I offered, the guy who was helping to set up this weekend's regional competition asked if I had ever judged before. When I told him that I had not he recommended that I come by Saturday to learn how to judge and help belay. That is precisely what I did and really had a good time doing it.
This competition was for all ages up to age 19 and the 14-15 year-olds dominated the routes. I was surprised to learn that the easiest route, the first of three with the second two being leads, began at least at 5.10c or above. That killed any ambition I have for competing. But to watch these kids flash these routes (all were onsited) was simply amazing. I was thoroughly impressed.
I was really surprised, however, by the fact that I felt I was at a Little League game. I mean, except for a few of us, most of the volunteers were the parents of the competitors. I don't know why this surprised me, but I guess it was because the image I have always had in my mind of the climbing community was not one that represented supportive parents. Climbing to me has always seemed to be a bit of a loner sport, where you are really challenging yourself even if you are working with a team or partner. I guess maybe that was so early on in climbing history, though I am sure that many kids become involved through their parents' introduction of the sport, and even those who were not introduced probably had some support. But with the growth of climbing gyms, the safety of climbing and access has allowed for the sport to become more family oriented. I don't think it is unfair to say that there are now "climber" moms out there driving their minivans to and from the gym during the middle of the week. The whole idea is truly bizarre considering the dangerous nature of climbing and the subculture that exists within it (a subculture, by the way, that dominates the image of climbing, at least in my opinion).
Anyway, I had a pretty fun time and met some people that I would like to see and talk to again. I enjoyed this aspect of the climbing community and will likely continue to volunteer at such events. God love life's little surprises.