By John DeCoste
If you’re young and fit - or relatively so, at least - and enjoy a challenge to your body and brain at the same time, the growing sport of bouldering might be for you.
For those who haven’t seen it, bouldering is a climbing sport in which competitors scale a vertical wall by using strategically-placed handholds of various shapes.
In actual competition, the paths up the wall are numbered and graded according to difficulty. Competitors must complete as many challenges as possible within a certain length of time, and the one with the most points wins.
According to Adam Conner, a West Kings teacher who coaches a team at the school, it’s not as easy as it looks. While strength and agility are certainly useful, speed is not necessarily an asset.
“It’s like organized chaos,” Conner says. “It’s great physical activity, but it also requires problem-solving skills and creative thinking – and although it’s an individual activity, there are definitely teamwork aspects to it as well.”
Each challenge, Conner points out, “is an individual problem,” which usually requires some thought beforehand before starting your climb.
Participants are encouraged to give it some serious thought first, and even take notes if it helps.
Conner noted that West Kings has one of just two school bouldering clubs in the Valley – the other one is at AWEC in Annapolis Royal.
“We’ve had the wall for about five years, but the club itself only started in September,” he added.
A Feb. 23 competition, which included students from both AWEC and West Kings, featured 30 qualifying problems and eight final problems, four for boys and four for girls.
The qualifying problems “range in difficulty from one to 30,” he added.
The competition was originally scheduled for Feb. 9, but had to be postponed due to the weather, which Conner felt may have affected the attendance.
“If everyone that signed up comes, we’ll end up with 20, which is good for a first effort,” he said.
At present, the west Kings club has 12 members, eight of which competed.
“It’s also fun to watch,” even if you’re not competing, he said.
One of the West Kings competitors was Patrick Fanning. Speaking after he had had a chance to scope out the course, Fanning said he was looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a good physical activity. It’s a challenge for your brain, too, to work out the problems,” he said.
“I really like it. There’s some skill and thinking involved, and it changes every time. You soon learn there are many different ways of doing the same thing.”
Fanning stressed that the skills learned in bouldering “can take you other places as well. It has applications you can use outside and in climbing actual rock walls.”