If you said that the Ibex Valley Bouldering Festival has a bit of a rocky history, you wouldn’t just be making a clever pun.
The fifth annual bouldering fest took place Sunday, however the event began in 2001.
Those keen on mathematics will notice that the numbers do not add up.
“There was a three-year period when all the young people that help me with this project went off to college,” said Eric Allen, the chief co-ordinator of the event. “Now that they’ve all moved back, this is the third year doing it in the last consecutive three years.”
The three consecutive years culminated in the most successful festival yet as a record number of participants came out to test their climbing abilities.
“I don’t know, I haven’t a clue,” said Allen, when asked how many people were participating. “It looks like well over 100. I think it’s up 20 or 30 per cent, maybe 40 per cent, more than last year.”
“It’s such a good event that we keep bringing people back each year,” said Luann Johnson, who was participating in her third bouldering festival.
“At first our family came out, then more family. Then friends and it just keeps growing … 19 of us in three vehicles came out this year.”
However, reasons for the festival’s growing success reach beyond word of mouth and the event’s newly established consistency.
“Climbing is taking off in Whitehorse, becoming more and more popular,” said Allen. “There’s a couple more climbing gyms (and) indoor bouldering gyms that were built this last winter. So people were climbing through the winter.
“And, of course, you take your friends over to try it and pretty soon everybody is stoked about it — it’s definitely a growing scene.”
“You can do it with bare feet if you want,” said Allen. “The first thing you’ll want to get is a pair of shoes, then after that you can embellish with a chalk-bag. And then if you want to go whole-hog you get a bouldering pad.
“So for, say, 250 bucks you’re outfitted for life — until your shoes wear out.”
After the circuits at the festival were complete, participants enjoyed food, juggling and the performance of a local band. But the biggest crowd pleaser was the hardcore session in which advanced climbers attempted some of the most challenging boulders.
Among the boulders attempted was a project (never successfully climbed) called Pura Vida (Pure Life). However, Pura Vida remained elusive and no one won the free bouldering pad being offered as a reward.
“It’s an activity that is basically a lifetime sport once you start and you enjoy it,” said Allen. “And you do a hard bouldering problem that challenges you, you can go back year after year (to try it.)
“Because in order to do a good boulder problem you come to the point where you truly know it. You work it in you mind.
“When you close your eyes and you can see every hold — it’s kind of like music, you’ve learned it.”
Although awards were given out at the end of the festival, the winners were chosen by raffle.
“It’s a noncompetitive event — it’s a festival,” explained Allen. “So the idea is to just go around and have fun.”