The blizzard on Saturday February 21, 2015, did not stop climbers from all across Virginia gathering to compete in James Madison University’s 14th annual Reach Out Competition. The 52 dedicated climbers took to JMU’s 33-foot indoor rock wall to test themselves. Competitors were split up into two heats for each type of climbing. Bouldering took place in the morning and top roping closed out the afternoon. JMU went all out with the entertainment for the day providing warm up yoga sessions, cool t-shirts, a great swag bag, and an excellent lunch with a viewing of Almost Alpine, the Kickstarter-funded mockumentary of three Appalachian climbers making history by climbing a massive traverse in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The day was certainly one to remember.

Strategy was a big part of the competition. Climbers had to get the maximum number of points between their best three boulder problems and best two top-rope problems. Points were based on number of attempts and the difficulty of the route. The competition was broken into three categories, recreational, intermediate, and advanced, for women and men.

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As the morning bouldering heats kicked off, cheering from the crowds could be heard in the background as the first heat of climbers navigated routes and those on deck discussed possible beta. One climber that was resting between climbs talked with me about how energized climbing competitions are. He said he loves to see competitors cheering each other on and sharing critical advice with each other even if it might cost them a place on the podium. Sportsmanship at its finest if you ask me — each competitor wanting their counterparts to perform their best knowing that the true challenge is reaching one’s own peak performance. The encouraging attitude made for one heck of a good time as we took on the wall!

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The bouldering routes were full of technical foot placements and powerful movements. A couple of proud first timers mentioned completing a challenging route in the bouldering cave where they had to climb onto the ceiling, a job well done indeed! At the end of the bouldering session there were some great discussions on what type of climbing people preferred and some good stories were shared about recent ice climbing adventures on the way to lunch. The lunch hour for some was an opportunity for yoga and cardio to work out pumped forearms, for others it was spent hanging out and watching Almost Alpine. Either way at the end of the hour, the top roping sessions began and with the scores from bouldering being so close together, it was still anyone’s chance for first! The top roping utilized a lot of the built in features on the JMU wall and forced some quick decisions about how to grab certain holds not visible from the ground. The wall was certainly a force to be reckoned with and it was clear the route setters put in a great deal of effort for the event. Each bracket had a series of challenging routes that proved to be the deciding factor of the day.

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Plenty of fun was had as we all got to try our hand at reaching the top! The JMU Reach Out Climb is an annual public event that takes place during a Saturday in late February with registration opening up in early January. Get to climbing and we will see you at the next one!

A big shout out to JMU’s Adventure crew, and all of the event supporters, including the sponsor of the day, Walkabout Outfitters for making it all possible! An even bigger shout out and congratulations to the weekend warriors that made it to the podium! Recreation Men’s: Schieber (1st) Chang (2nd) Sternfeld (3rd) – Recreation Women’s: Sargeant (1st) Barclay (2nd) Skelly (3rd) – Intermediate Men’s: Elliot (1st) Nooney (2nd) Lee (3rd) – Intermediate Women’s: Fink (1st) Borowy (2nd) Merian (3rd) Mjelde (3rd) – Advanced Men’s: Peterson (1st) Reese (2nd) McGrady (3rd) – Advanced Women’s: Gervasi (1st)

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Photo cred: Erik Bailey