Competitors clung to any ledge or hole their chalk-covered fingers could grip.
Some hung 30 feet above the ground without ropes to slow an unplanned descent. One misstep or lost hand-hold meant a climber would plummet to the ground.
None of the competitors were in any real danger, though. Pole-vaulting pads waited below them to safely stop any falling climber. This, however, only slightly eased the tension for some participants.
In the fourth annual Intercollegiate Bouldering Competition, hosted by Weber State University’s Outdoor Program, students from several Utah universities gathered to test their skills at the Weber Rocks climbing walls.
“Ours is unique in that we do our finals . . . with pole-vault pads,” said Daniel Turner, the Outdoor Program coordinator. “Most competitions don’t have that. People get a little nervous with how high it is, but at the same time, it’s a lot of fun. We’ve never had any injuries or anything like that. We take a lot of precautions to make sure nothing happens.”
The competition originated as a collaboration with Westminster College and has grown to include other schools from Utah, Idaho and Montana.
Patrick Hanna, a student at Westminster, won first place in the men’s division Saturday. Hanna said he enjoys rock climbing because it allows him opportunities to spend time with friends and challenge himself.
“The competitions are a lot of fun,” Hanna said. “There were some really good competitors out here, and I just had such a good time today.”
Megan Gallagher, also a Westminster student, won first place in the women’s division.
In the finals round, climbers were given three different routes to the top of the rock wall. They had five minutes to complete each route without using an illegal feature, ledge or hole.
Troy Benallie, a climber from Utah State University, said he was surprised that he qualified for the finals round and, while he didn’t win the competition, enjoyed his time on WSU’s campus.
“I thought the competition today went really well,” Benallie said. “I had a really good time. I didn’t expect to be in the finals at all. It was fun. I was kind of nervous. I’m not used to people watching me when I climb.”
Turner said several schools participate in WSU’s competition because they don’t always have indoor rock climbing walls on their own campuses.
In order to promote more participation, registration for the competition was free to any student from any college or university.
“All of the competitions we currently run are free,” Turner said. “It’s just a means to get students out and engaging in friendly competition. It’s always a lot of fun.
In addition to competitions, WSU’s Outdoor Program also gives students opportunities to go on rock climbing, back-country skiing and white-water river rafting trips.
While all members of the public can utilize services the Outdoor Program offers, Turner said he especially wants students to feel welcome to join the organization’s events and activities.
“Anybody is welcome,” Turner said. “Even the general public is welcome at our programs, but we really want students to take advantage of it. They’re the ones that support us through their student fees.”
Turner also said he thinks many students don’t participate in the program’s activities because they aren’t aware of the available services.
“It’s a student service to promote healthy, active lifestyles,” Turner said. “It’s a resource that I think is underutilized here at WSU. Not many people really know what they’re missing, and if they did, I think we’d get a lot more students out here taking advantage of it.”
Students interested in learning more about WSU’s Outdoor Program can visit the organization’s website at www.weber.edu/outdoor.