Wall Crawlers


Xander Fu

Martin Mattes scales the rock wall in the SURC Recreation Center for the Vertical Challenge.

Miles King, Staff Reporter

CWU climbing enthusiasts have a new challenge facing them: climb as high as Mount Everest, a tall task considering the mountain’s just-over-29,000-foot summit.

The event, hosted by the CWU Recreation Center and officially called the “Vertical Challenge” runs from Jan. 16 to Feb. 16. Teams of up to four members will track and tally their climbs with a goal “to climb as high as Everest,” said Melissa Robertson, the coordinator of the climbing and challenge course.

About 10 teams of four will climb during top rope open hours Sunday through Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.

There are 27 predetermined climbs to earn points, which will be added up to determine the winner at the end of the event. Along with the point system, tickets are awarded to teams upon completion of the climbs. The number of points and tickets awarded are determined by the distance and difficulty of the climbing route. The tickets are used for random prize drawings. The more tickets a team has in the drawing, the more likely they are to win.

A total of 20 prizes will be awarded, purchased by the Recreation Center from Black Diamond Equipment. Prizes include climbing related tools such as ropes, helmets and quick-draws, which are used to connect ropes for climbing protections.

Robertson hopes the prizes will keep people motivated to continue climbing, even if they are unable to win the entire event.

In previous years, the event either spanned a week or a single day and teams only consisted of two members. By expanding teams and time availability, the Recreation Center is trying to make the event more inclusive and accommodating to participant’s schedules, according to Robertson.

Dylan Holden, a second time participant and a senior accounting major, believes the changes have brought in more people to the event.  

Holden and his team placed first in the event last year. Holden placed all of his tickets into the drawing and won a climbing rope last year.

Holden said his team reached the Everest mark last year, climbing about 30,000 feet. Holden has been climbing on-and-off since 2004 and expects his team to compete this year too.

“I’m really excited about the team we have,” Holden said.

First time participant Jaime Liljegren, a graduate student studying cultural and environmental resource management, said the event and other participants have been very welcoming. Liljegren first became interested in climbing about five years ago while attending Western Washington University.

“It’s a really great way to dive into the rock climbing world,” Liljegren said of the Vertical Challenge.

Another first year participant, freshman Nathan Chandler, recently got serious about climbing this year, but had some previous experience top rope climbing in New Mexico.

“[It’s] just a fantastic event,” Chandler said. Chandler has enjoyed his experience with the event and expressed he will “probably be doing more” climbing after the event concludes.

Chandler hopes to accomplish more difficult climbs as the event continues. His goal is to climb a five-twelve difficulty climb. According to Chandler, the recreation center does have higher difficulty climbs, going as high as five-twelve and as low as five-seven. He noted the challenge milestones such as Manastash Ridge as motivation to continue climbing; the final milestone of course being Everest.

Chandler will be putting all of his earned tickets toward winning a climbing rope or a gri-gri: a braking belay device that provides resistance against a rope when repelling.

Holden, Liljegren and Robertson all spoke of a climbing community they felt a part of.  Liljegren has noticed a strong motivation and really positive attitude among the participants.

“[They’re] really motivational, great people,” Liljegren said.

According to the competitors, the community has developed friendly competition.

“The competition aspect is community focused,” Robertson said. She noted that the competitors are always encouraging one another to push harder and go further.

“Seeing that they’re pushing themselves makes you want to push yourself harder,” Holden said.