Rock climbing is one of the purest adrenaline-inducers around and those who practice the sport at the highest rungs are possessors of great skill. This much is certainly true, but the real beauty of climbing lies in its accessibility. Anyone with a desire to explore their physical limits may benefit from the pursuit’s low barriers to entry and revel in a feeling of inimitable pride as they journey toward the top of the mountain (even if that “mountain” is actually a man-made rock wall, as is often the case in structured climbing competition).
From”bouldering,” where climbers tackle short courses without ropes and the focus is more on brute strength than endurance, to “speed climbing,” where individuals or teams compete to be the first to reach a course’s highest point, to “lead” or “on sight” bouts, where he who climbs highest wins (regardless of time), rock climbing is a whole lot more technical than smothering your hands in chalk and pulling up.
With summer’s warm weather comes a plethora of climbing events perfect for all adventure-minded athletes and spectators. Here are the planet’s can’t miss shindigs, running the gamut from local/exploratory to world-class. Have a look at our list, pick a spot (or five) and, whether you decide to watch from the sidelines or suit up, know that you’ll never look at a rock face the same way again.
On vacation in beautiful Colorado and searching for an action-packed way to fill an afternoon? Look no further than Adventure Rock in Mountain Village (skip to 1:43 in the video for a glimpse). Whether you’re an experienced pro looking to keep in shape or a 13-year-old flexing your growing muscles, this outdoor rockwall emporium offers a wide array of courses, from the ultra-intense to the more easy-going. Lesisure-minded climbers can come any day of the week, but on Wednesdays, from 4-6pm, Adventure Rock holds organized bouldering competitions for all ages. Climbers can attempt as many courses, or “problems,” as they can squeeze into the allotted two-hour competition window. All are encouraged to compete regardless of experience or skill. Prizes are awarded to first, second and third place winners. Event-organizer, Dave Bangert assures Telluride News, “there will be a little something for every kid who competes.” Sounds like a pretty awesome way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.
Nineteen years ago, climbing legend Todd Skinner had a vision to start a festival aimed as much at celebrating the sport as at communicating to teens the life lessons learned from rock climbing. Now the longest-running climbing festival in the world, the Skinner’s Lander, Wyoming-based International Climbers’ Festival makes good use of the Wind River Mountain Range. The range boasts a variety of traditional and bouldering routes, complete with difficulty grades appropriate for climbers of all levels. A film festival, arm-wrestling contest, slacklining showcase, climbing clinics and a speaker series featuring some of Skinner’s fellow climbing greats and Adrenalist favorites like Dean Potter and Steph Davis make this event one to mark on your calendars. Luckily, this year’s five-day fest is right around the corner, kicking off July 11th. Grab your gear and get going!
Fifteen miles west of the Las Vegas, Nevada strip lies Red Rock Canyon, a world entirely apart from the flashing lights and slot machines of the Bellagio, and an undisputed climbing paradise. With over 1,700 different routes of varying difficulty (from novice to world-class challenging), the federally-administered destination is open all year round. Those looking for one of the preeiminent climbing events in the country and a place to really measure the reach of their abilities will make some special time for the Mountain Gear Red Rock Rendezvous. With instructional sessions and competitions ranging from basic to extreme, Rendezvous attendees will walk away from the outing with more than their money’s worth. Specialized clinics on climbing-related topics like “wilderness first aid” and “self-rescue” add an element of pre-professional prep. So next time you’re in Vegas, take a break from blackjack and put your money on Red… Rocks that is.
For Bragging Rights
For all us US-based adrenalists, this one may require some planning and a call to the old travel agent. Arco, Italy’s Rock Master Festival not only incorporates all the instructional elements of the previous destinations, from clinics to camps, but it also falls squarely in the realm of a pro-grade climbing event. Most of the climbers who come to Arco are seasoned vets. The festival offers athletes the chance to compete in all permutations of events, from bouldering to speed to lead to duel (a gladiatorial fan favorite where two climbers race up an identical course at the same time). Having run an adult competition for 25 years and a junior competition for 10, Arco has deemed itself the “world’s undisputed rock climbing capital.” The 10-day Rock Master Festival is the longest on our list. This year’s climb-a-palooza will launch August 25th. Tickets are on sale now.
For Worldwide Notoriety
Lasting three days and host to 10,000 eager fans, including the world’s most skilled speed and technical climbers, the annual World Climbing Championships in Chamonix, France is the pinnacle of professional rock wall events. Male and female climbers are broken into two categories, “technical” and “speed,” and are assigned to courses tailored to those focuses. Technical courses feature seemingly insurmountable elements like 30 degree angles and handholds not much deeper than thimbles, while routes built for speed are designed to allow those most skilled at making lightning fast ascents to do just that, unencumbered by any psyche-shattering physical obstacles. Though athletes hail from all over the world to compete, the World Climbing Championship website reports that Chinese climbers are usually well-represented in speed events, while large numbers of Austrian and Eastern European athletes are invited to take on the Championship’s technical courses. This year’s event runs from July 11th-13th.