Increasingly it appears that rock-climbing has a new hold on life in the territory.
More evidence of this could be seen at the Yukon Indoor Bouldering Championships held at FH Collins Secondary School’s indoor climbing facility on Thursday.
The event, the last indoor competition of the season, featured 25 participants.
“We’re super pleased,” said Mike Lewis, one of the event’s organizers and coach of the Yukon Junior Climbing team. “We were thinking if we had 10 or 15 we’d be really happy. We weren’t quite sure it would work out but it worked out great.”
The indoor championship has not taken place in almost a decade after the Yukon’s climbing club dissolved in 2001.
“So we’re back with a junior team and I think next year it will be stronger and we’ll have more kids in it,” said organizer Alain Dallaire. “It’s a good start to the year.
“I opened it to the community, it’s a good service to the community. There’s not that many kids competing, so by bringing the community it gives more competition.
“Some of our juniors are better than many adults.”
Verifying Dallaire’s proclamation was Whitehorse’s Sierra Allen, 17, who not only won the women’s event with 68 points, but out-climbed the open men’s category winner, Jonathan Lowey, 18, who finished with 55.
With their scores, the two Yukon Junior Climbing team members also took top-spots in the junior divisions as well.
“I just came back from a climbing trip so I guess I’m kind of in shape for it,” said Allen, who was in Squamish, BC, a hotspot for bouldering.
“There’s a lot of different boulderers there and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of hard climbers and got inspired.”
For the event, 19 different climbing routes of increasing difficulty were developed on the wall, with a couple so demanding no climber was able to accomplish them.
“They’re both on the overhang with small holds,” said Lewis of the unclimbed routes. “They’re just hard—hard to work the movements out, I guess.”
Participants were awarded extra points for scaling a route on their first attempt.
To ensure no climber had an advantage, organizers spent a couple days creating and testing the routes before the championships.
“We started yesterday and did it all today,” said Lewis. “I had an hour-and-a-half nap today because I was exhausted.
“We just set them and hoped they would be OK. I think most people did the first six on their first try—they were within most people’s ability. There were very few people who were able to do any of the hard ones.”
The difference between bouldering and rock climbing is largely scale.
Bouldering climbers scale smaller structures, closer to the ground. Because of that, they don’t require harnesses or ropes. Instead, they use crash pads to cushion falls.
“Bouldering is more fun for me because there’s more focus on individual moves,” said Allen. “You can do harder moves because you’re closer to the ground and you can try overhangs over and over again.”
In recent weeks, the climbing community has shown unity in the face of adversity when, in early May, they learned a popular climbing site—perhaps the best in the territory—was threatened by blasting for road construction.
About 30 climbers attended an emergency meeting to discuss the endangered site, located off Atlin Road at the foot of White Mountain. Since then, talks between the climbing community and the Yukon government have paved the way to securing the site’s future.
“Basically we’re in a holding pattern,” said Climb Yukon Association president Ryan Agar, in an interview with the News last week. “What’s happening next is we want to keep climbers engaged. We want to raise the profile of climbers and climbing in the territory. So we’re getting out, using White Mountain before the construction happens, making sure people know we’re there.
“Our next step is documenting what’s at the site and the current state of the site and then setting up more conversations with the Yukon government.”
The next climbing competition to take place will be the Ibex Valley Bouldering Festival sometime in early August. An exact date has yet to be determined.
“I was really pleased so many climbers came out,” said Allen. “It seems like the climbing scene is really picking up. Last year it didn’t seem like there were that many people.”
1st Sierra Allen (68 pts) 2nd Holly Goulding (45 pts)
1st Jonathan Lowey (55pts)
2nd Matt Scheinck (54 pts)
Juvenile female (10- 15)
1st Emeraude Dallaire-Robert (37pts)
Juvenile male (10- 15)
1st Alex Wyatt (25pts)
Junior female (15-18) 1st Sierra Allen (52 pts)
Junior male (15-18)
1st Jonathan Lowey (55pts)
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