Highland’s Climbers Are Reaching New Heights

Janie Lambert, Staff Writer

Zoe Barlow’s favorite photo of herself is one where, as a five-year-old, she is scaling the face of a massive cliff in Big Cottonwood Canyon. She was climbing even though she looked barely big enough to walk.

Barlow has always been petite, standing at 5-foot-1 as a sophomore, but she found a way to make her small body feel larger than life every time she digs her fingers into a rock.

Barlow, Allison Holmberg, and Alexander Watt are three teenagers who have this passion. All three of them compete for The Front Climbing Club team.

Climbers are often motivated to keep up with the sport by the adrenaline rush that they get when they are on the wall.

“I feel as if I am always aware of my body when I’m on the wall,” Barlow said. “I know exactly where my body parts are.”

These competitions are different than most sports competitions because of the way they are set up.

Bouldering competitions are the most common in the climbing world. Climbers have four minutes to complete a course that they have never seen before. Each boulder includes four areas: the start hold, zone 1, zone 2, and the top. Each zone has a set number of points. During the climb, for example, if a climber is going for the top but falls before reaching it, he or she will still get the points for the second zone. Lead competitions have a similar format where getting to a certain hold earns a certain number of points.

There are also specific techniques that each climber uses during competition. Climbers typically experiment with techniques to find the best fit for them.

“I always brush the holds to clean them and get better friction,” Watt, a freshman, said. “But while I do that there is an old outdoor climber technique where you set the brush to a certain angle and use the brush to measure the hold.”

Along with prepping day of and planning their climbing techniques, there are also many ways the climbers have to train their bodies during the off season in preparation for the competition season.

Grip strength is a must.

“I climb on my own and do strength training during the year when I’m not competing,” senior Allison Holmberg said. “I do it when I am competing too.”

Climbing takes a lot of physical strength, using muscles through the entire body. But one of the main skills one must have as a climber is a good mentality, as it is purely a mental game. The person in the competition has to believe that they can complete it and have a good mindset to be able to finish that route.

“If you go into a climb saying I can’t do it, then you probably won’t be able to do it,” Barlow said. “You have to have confidence in yourself and your skills to do it.”

As will all sports, climbers face their own individual challenges specific to their person. Many climbs are more geared towards taller people and people with a longer reach, which can present challenges to shorter climbers.

Due to Barlow’s stature, she has had to train herself in specific ways to be able to complete certain moves that tall people can more easily do.

“I’ve had to train to be physically stronger,” Barlow said. “I have to have better technique and be better at dynamic climbs.”

These three climbers have been climbing since they were young kids, as their parents have all climbed for many years.

“My dad moved to Utah to climb before I was born and has done it his whole life,” Holmberg said. “He stopped when I was born though, and it wasn’t a big thing in my life until about sixth grade.”

A big part of why these three have been climbing for so long is because of the climbing community when they are at the gym and at competitions.

“People really want you to succeed even if they are not on your team,” Watt said. “Everyone is so nice and willing to give you anything you need, which I don’t see in many other sports.”