Climbing to new heights on CMS wall

By McKenzie Moore

The climbing wall at Cedaredge Middle School, which was completed in 2014 after communitywide fundraising efforts, hosts a weekly open house for the public on Friday nights from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Climbers of all ages and skill levels can learn to both climb and belay for other climbers. In addition to a recreational climbing club now in its third year, the wall gave Cedaredge the opportunity to create a competitive climbing team. The team has been competing for two years.

Sabrina Gilmore, a regular on Friday nights and a member of the Cedaredge competitive climbing team, says the sport is a great way to build fitness and meet new friends. "It's really fun to get out and challenge yourself to see yourself get better," she says, "It's a new challenge every time, which is fun."

The wall offers seven ropes and 21 different routes, including "bouldering" routes that do not require harnesses and primarily move horizontally across the wall. A points system shows climbers the difficulties of the routes.

"It's a good community," Gilmore says, "It's not really competitive -- you compete, but everybody's just trying to help you get up the wall in the easiest way possible. They all just want you to make it."

The climbing team participates in the Western Slope division of the Colorado league from late November to early February, and the season concludes with a state competition in Denver. Only high school students can compete, but the team also recruits middle school students who wish to participate and prepare for a future in the sport.

Coach Michael Long says the community is welcome to try the climbing wall on Friday nights. "It's a really cheap, easy thing to do with your family," he says. He also coaches the competitive team and helps train new climbers during community nights.

"It's a really easy, positive thing, and that's the real purpose of the wall -- beyond the competitive team, beyond the club. It's to give people skills: overcoming fears, trusting each other ... building blocks for life."

The wall is located in the Cedaredge Middle School gymnasium, and new climbers can get started with the sport for $3, which covers all equipment and training.