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Drew and Katie Bone climbing on the wall in their garage.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Practicing their moves at the climbing gym
Photo credit:—Tammy Bone

Sport climbing takes kids to new heights

—Bill Diven

For Drew Bone, hanging out with his sister occasionally means hanging upside down. Drew, 11, and Katie, 9, are competitive climbers who’ve turned a growing sport into a family adventure. Both are adept at the bat hang, a technique that gives their hands a rest as they hang by their feet likes bats in a cave.

Drew led the way. “I’ve always really liked climbing trees,” he said. And then came his tenth birthday.

“My friends told me there was a climbing gym in Albuquerque, and I wanted to go, so I went for my birthday,” he continued. “I really liked it, and I tried out for the team. Then I started competing, and now here we are.”

His goal, he adds, is to turn pro. The team is Team Mojo, about sixty kids ages seven through 17 in three divisions based roughly on age at the Stone Age Climbing Gym. There the climbing wall rises 45 feet but, with its overhand and prow, stretches sixty feet.

Despite climbing barely a year, Drew’s skills took him through local and regional events to being one of 14 team members shooting for a spot on the national team. He made the finals of the USA Climbing Divisional Championships in Utah in early June, but his combined sport- and speed-climbing scores stood 0.01 point short off making the cut.

In a local competition in Colorado earlier this year, Drew tied for first in his age group.

“I like pushing my limits, and you can very easily do that in climbing,” he said.

The Utah trip came as something of a surprise, mom Tammy Bone said, because she’d been told first-year climbers almost never make it to Divisionals.

The governing body USA Climbing oversees hundreds of competitions nationally and claims about four thousand youth and collegiate members. Events run in seasons with bouldering up to 15 feet without ropes in the winter and spring and then sport climbing for height or speed while in a harness attached to a rope belayed from below.

In the speed event, everyone gets the same route and is timed. But in the sport event, the climber is given only a few minutes to plan a route with judging based on how high he or she goes.

“They become puzzles you have to figure out,” said Aaron Stromberg, head coach of Team Mojo’s youngest climbers, which includes Katie. “You have to train yourself mentally to take a fall or make a move.

“Not only is it a physical sport, but it makes you stronger in your mental capacity of what you’re capable of, what you can actually do.”

For Katie, seeing Drew in competition brought her into the sport.

“If he finishes a hard climb, she’s the next one on the wall,” Tammy said. “Or, if he falls off a hard climb, she’s the next on the wall to see if she can beat what he just did.”

Katie is fond enough of the bat hang she climbs in a Batgirl cape, but she has another move, too.

“My favorite thing is to dyno,” she said. “You’re on two holds and then you jump, totally let go, and go for the next one.”

Dyno would be short for dynamic move—a jump to hand-and-foot holds you can’t otherwise reach.

In her first competition in Santa Fe, she finished right behind three climbers who tied for first.

Tammy, a Bernalillo native, and husband Matt, who grew up in Placitas, encourage the sport since Drew and Katie can continue climbing for as long as they want.

“It’s a sport that’s considered a lifestyle sport,” Tammy said. “If you do gymnastics as a child, you don’t necessarily go on as an adult to go hang out on Friday night and do gymnastics with your friends… At the gym you will see four-year-olds and you will see 75-year-olds there climbing at their own ability, their own level. It’s really amazing for fitness. Not having been climbers, we didn’t know that.”

Tammy, once a Bernalillo High School cheerleader, and Matt do climb a little now for fitness since they’re at the gym frequently anyway. “It’s not easy,” she said.

While there is risk, the most common injury is a twisted ankle, according to Stromberg. Injuries are less common in the roped events, he added.

Neither Drew nor Katie said they get scared while climbing. Tammy said she’s seen them nervous, but only while studying bouldering routes outdoors.

“In indoor climbing you can clearly see what your route is, you can clearly see the holds, they’re marked,” Tammy said. “But outdoor climbing, it’s just you and the wall, and you have to figure it out for yourself.”

To help keep in practice, they’re building their own climbing wall up one side of the garage and spreading onto the ceiling.


Cub Scouts take to the skies in flight simulator at SAMS Academy Charter School.
Photo credit: —Michelle Bane

Cub Scouts sizzle in July

—Susann Owings

“At the end of the month we’ll have a Backyard Cook-Out where the boys continue to learn how to cook their own food,” says Pack Master David Gardner. 

Pack 708 will start July’s activities by bringing their award-winning parade skills to the Placitas Independence Day Parade, Saturday, July 4th.  July 10-11, the Cub Scouts and their families will have an overnight at the Baca Ranch in Algodones.

So far, the summer has been very fun, according to Mr. Gardner.  They went fossil hunting, took a long hike at Tent Rocks National Monument, cleaned up Rio Rancho as part of the Great American Clean-up, and visited a flight school where they tried out a flight simulator.

New members are welcome at Pack meetings 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., Wednesdays at the Railrunner Station in Bernalillo.  Pack meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month. 

For further information about the Cub Scouts, please contact David Gardner, 867-4689 and/or Snow Watson, Coronado Optimist Club’s Scout Liaison, 867-2047. 

 
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