RIDGWAY – Surrounded by grand peaks, it’s no wonder Ridgway and Ouray boast a healthy population of young climbers.
The Voyager-sponsored Ouray/Ridgway Climbing Team is 13 members strong this season, and has been hammering the climbing wall in preparation for their first climbing competition of the season on Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Ridgway Elementary School.
Coach Matt Hepp said he expects his crew of blossoming young mountaineers to shine, describing the team as ripe with fresh talent. “We have a lot of young talent on the team this year, which means we’ll be building for the future,” Hepp said.
The climbing team was created seven years ago as an answer to local kids’ desire to get involved in the callused-hand, chalk-dusted local climbing culture and is open to kids in sixth through 12th grades. They began practicing in November for the four-month-long competitive winter season.
The team will travel to six climbing events between now and the end of February, with contests to be held throughout the region. And although the Ridgway/Ouray team may benefit from growing up in towns rife with strong climbers, they’re not alone. They’ll have to face off against similarly stacked mountain town climbing teams like Telluride, Silverton, Gunnison, and Carbondale.
Ultimately, these young climbers’ fiercest competition won’t be their neighbors, but rather the climbs themselves. At each event, competitors will challenge their skill against the rock – attempting to scale varying degrees of difficult routes at indoor climbing walls. Judges rank competitors based on technique, but in the end the greatest test of skill is simple: Can a climber make it to the top?
The team will at least enjoy home turf advantage at the season’s first event. The Ridgway Bouldering Rally will pit Ridgway and Ouray climbers against climbers from Telluride, Silverton and Montrose. The following weekend the team travels to Carbondale for a climbing event hosted by the Colorado Rocky Mountain School.
And now that voters have passed the Ridgway Schools’ mil levy, the region’s aspiring young climbers will soon be able to achieve even greater heights, Hepp said. “We’re looking forward to being able to climb on a roped climbing wall in the new gym,” he said, perhaps as early as next fall.
He added that spectators are encouraged to attend the upcoming Ridgway Bouldering Rally, beginning at 10 a.m.