With each move, white chalk dust glitters the rock climbing gym Rocks and Ropes. Rock climbers of all ages defy gravity at the gym. Some move quickly up the bouldering routes while others swing in the air, ropes holding them up as they contemplate their next move.

For Donovan Leber, there’s nothing else that he’d rather do after school. Rock climbing is his passion, something he hopes to continue throughout his whole life.

“It’s a really good workout and it just gets your blood pumping,” he said.

On the wall next to Leber’s chosen route, Lina Green glides up her route. It’s a climb she’d been working on for a few practices.

“A lot of it matters about how strong you are, but a lot of it is technique too,” Green said.

Both Leber and Green are a part of the competitive climbing team at Rocks and Ropes, which takes them across the country to compete. For rock climbing competitions, climbers get a limited number of attempts and time to finish the climb.w3

“In competition climbing you have a certain amount of attempts and a certain amount of time,” Leber said.

From junior to competitive teams, athletes can be as young as six years old. The program at Rocks and Ropes was established over 10 years ago and now, there’s over 90 athletes across the six teams. Since the sport debuted at the 2020 Olympics, Mavko said he’s seen an exponential growth in the number of climbers at the gym or in the outdoors.

“Climbing is exploding in popularity,” Jon Mavko, the head coach, said. “As they mature as athletes, they can decide if they want to take a competitive track or the more outdoor recreational track.”

For the last nine years of Julia Marcus’s life, she’s been climbing both competitively and recreationally Now, she’s on the recreational team. Her passion is to coach the next generation of climbers.

“I coach and it’s something I love doing,” she said. “And I hope to make it my full time job coaching when I’m older.”

Green, who is in sixth grade, said this sport is something she’ll continue to prioritize even once she ages out of the teams.

“I’m going to keep training,” Green said. “I’m going to see if there are any adult competitions I can do.”

But for each of the climbers, the sport is more than just strength and agility training. Each day when they come to practice, it’s also about creating strong friendships and climbing partners for life.

“You’re bound to make friends when you’re on a climbing team,” Leber said.

And Marcus agrees climbing is about community.

“There’s always someone to help you out,” Marcus said. “It wouldn’t be the sport that it is without the people.”



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