Rock climbers converge on Williams

This past Saturday, Williams hosted its third annual Intercollegiate Climbing Competition. Sponsored by the Williams Outing Club, this competition featured over 40 climbing “routes” on the Nate Lowe Memorial Wall in the Towne Field House. This year, the competition was attended by over 40 climbers from 10 different schools around the Northeast, including Middlebury, Dartmouth, Cornell, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

The action started off at 11 a.m. with 20 different climbers attacking the wall for an hour. Climbers earned points for completing different routes, comprised of differently positioned holds on the wall.

The more difficult the route completed, the more points earned. Strong performances were turned in by two climbers from UNH who sent almost all our hardest routes, one in the 5.12+ range. A number of women climbed extremely well, topping out on a number of climbs thought nearly impossible. The most popular route was certainly a route called “Mind The Gap”. This route consisted of only four holds on the whole wall. Climbers had to jump from one hold to another, with both feet and hands leaving the wall for a period of time. The last jump was over 7 feet and thought undoable by anyone under 6 feet tall. Our theory was soon shown to be false when a 5’5″ climber powered through the last move to grab the top with one hand and a victorious scream.

Climbers were extremely excited, and it showed by their continuous climbing until 5 p.m. At this point, a well-deserved break came in the form of pizza and free massages, graciously doled out by local climber Dave Acheson. Contributing to the excitement were the Williams students and community members who came out in throngs to support the competition.

The music was loud and the atmosphere tense as everyone began to prepare for the finals, which included men’s and women’s intermediate divisions, as well as a men’s expert division. Before the finals, some climbers thrilled the crowd with strength antics such as one-arm pullups, long dynos (jumps) between holds, and gladiator style races up the wall. For the finals, both the men’s intermediate finals and the women’s finals would be climbed on the same route, set earlier that day by Matt Wessler ’01 and Dan Richter ’00. The climbing was steep and continuous, involving. high-steps with the feet, lock-offs with the hands and a few balancing moves thrown in at the top. The men climbed first, with only two (out of five) making it all the way up. Of the women, none made it to the top, but all made it within one move of the end, and it created a super exciting atmosphere when the last woman fell at the same point as the others.

These finals set the stage for the Men’s Expert finals, which were held on Williams’ unique 30-degree lead wall. The route, set by Wessler, involved tricky footwork and then extremely powerful climbing through five bolts. Most men fell low, as the climbing proved too powerful. However, two men, Dan Knights from Middlebury and Tim Kemple from UNH made it past the stopper move. Kemple, climbing really well made it just past Knights’ high point before taking a big fall to take the win.

The turnout for this competition was overwhelming. The emphasis was less on competition and more on fun, and it created a great atmosphere where both beginners and advanced climbers could enjoy themselves. With so many people in attendance, everyone climbed better, and climbing demonstrated its growing popularity as a sport and social practice. The results of the competition will be posted on a website accessible through the WOC page. As well, a very popular site, www.newenglandbouldering.com came to cover the event and will post a story, pictures, and results.

Many thanks are in order for all the Williams community who came to support the event and especially those who helped in putting it together – not an easy endeavor. Hopefully this competition showed people what climbing is about, and how fun it can be. If anyone would like to learn more about rock climbing come down to the wall or email 01mww.