Basalt climbers ready to hit the wall at the first regional competition in Carbondale |

Basalt climbers ready to hit the wall at the first regional competition in Carbondale

Junior Ella Lahey works on her bouldering during Basalt High School climbing team practice on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, inside the BHS auxiliary gymnasium.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

There was an indoor climbing league season last winter despite the difficulties surrounding the pandemic, but it lacked the energy of past years. Each team was given a time to climb, and the athletes never saw any of their competition in person.

“You go in, you climb, you submit your scorecard and then you wait a week and you’ll see how you are doing,” Basalt High School coach Tanner Jones explained. “It was different in that we had to go as individual teams and we had a week to go and do our three hours of climbing, as opposed to all the climbers coming together in certain heats or in certain waves and then building that camaraderie with other teams and having that competition and cooperation, which the league is good for.”

This season should feel closer to normal — well, the new pandemic normal — for the climbers. The season is scheduled to get underway on Saturday with the first regional competition, held at the Monkey House in Carbondale. It’s the initial step toward making the state competition in February.

“All the people are really fun. It’s really fun to meet everybody and climb with new people, because there are always new people every year,” BHS junior Ella Lahey said of why she likes to climb. “It’s so much more fun with everybody, because you can see how they do the problems and the routes. It’s much more alive.”

The Basalt High School climbing team practices on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in Basalt.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Jones started the BHS climbing team in 2018, with the 2019-20 winter season being the club’s first in terms of actual state competition. In January 2019, a climbing wall was built inside the high school’s auxiliary gymnasium and has led to a boon in numbers, from barely a handful in 2018 to around 20 the past few seasons.

The Longhorns compete out of the Colorado-based American Scholastic Climbing League, which was established in May 2018 and replaced the 10-year-old Colorado High School Climbing League. The nonprofit organization operates separately of the Colorado High School Activities Association.

At least for this season, Basalt has effectively become the valley’s team, with students from both Aspen and Roaring Fork high schools coming aboard. Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School has its own program.

“I’ve kind of adopted one Aspen climber and then a few from Roaring Fork. So really, it’s like the Roaring Fork Valley conglomerate,” Jones said. “The leadership certainly comes from these experienced climbers who have been doing this for a while and are training at the Monkey House and are really enjoying the competitive piece. So, they are able to kind of mentor a bit. And with that we have all abilities.”

Jones seeks to create a stress-free environment within the club, saying his “coaching philosophy around climbing is to make it as enjoyable as possible.” While some athletes certainly take the competitions seriously, many are out there simply to challenge themselves and have fun surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Competing out of the Western Slope — one of four regions statewide — athletes need to compete in at least three regional competitions out of a likely six total to qualify for the state championship. A few climbers took part in a USA Climbing event held in Eagle this past weekend, although those results don’t count toward the local high school league.

This Saturday’s competition at the Monkey House in Carbondale officially gets the season underway. Climbing begins at 12:30 p.m. with BHS (or the Roaring Fork School District team) and Eagle going first. CRMS has the last slot of the day, beginning around 5:30 p.m. Other schools tentatively scheduled to compete include Ridgway, Montrose, Delta, Telluride, Riverside, Coal Ridge, Gunnison and Vail Mountain.

“You just watch yourself grow. It’s fun. When you finally get a problem, you feel accomplished,” BHS junior Grace Harrington said of why she climbs with the team. “If you are really determined to get a placement then you can take it seriously, but it’s just fun overall. You go there and you support your teammates. It’s super fun. It’s going to be fun watching other climbers and being all in the same gym.”


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