Coquitlam climbers 'defy gravity' in friendly comp

Rock climbers of every ilk ‘crimped,’ ‘lay-backed’ and ‘dynoed’ through 12 hours of competition Saturday, June 1, in an event that brought out both first-timers and the hardcore.

Unlike like your standard competition, where the culmination of months of endurance, strength and flexibility training combine in high-stakes heats where winner takes all, the Defying Gravity competition was more like a beer league game – minus the beer.

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Instead of dividing people by age and gender, organizers mixed up the teams and set up the competition so expert and beginner climbers would make it to the finals. 

“We wanted to prove that youth can keep up with adults and that girls and boys can both pull hard,” said Drew Latta, the brains behind the event.

Some of the registered climbers were used to the competition circuit.

Just two weeks ago, Brielle Zacharias, 16, and Lexi Binder, 15, were ramping up months of training at the Lead and Speed Nationals in Montreal. Like several climbers who train at Base Camp 5, Zacharias and Minder would go on to claim enviable placements in several categories, putting them among some of the best climbers in country among their peers.

Both girls had been rock climbing since they were 10-years-old and both had devoted huge chunks of their young lives to the pursuit, putting in several hours a week in the bouldering cave and on the lead walls — not to mention long commutes from across the Lower Mainland.

That kind of dedication and resulting success is a big part of what the coaches try to encourage at the Coquitlam gym. But it’s only a small sliver of the climbers that regularly rope up at Base Camp 5.

Jean-Francois Dumont has been climbing at the gym since it first opened 20-odd years ago. He has seen a lot of young climbers come through the doors and raised his own two boys in the gym in a community that praises both camaraderie and pushing one’s limits.

Any discipline in climbing — rock, ice or alpinism — involves finding a particular joy in punishing the body and mind.

But for Dumont, this competition offered a break from that intensity.

“It’s like going to work versus going on vacation,” he said. 

“I’ve been smiling all day. The muscles that hurt most in my body are in my face.”

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