Five climbers from the Rock Wall Climbing Gym in Maple Ridge are among the fastest in Canada, and one has qualified for the world championships in China this fall.
Canada’s fastest climbers were in central Saanich on April 9 for the Canadian Speed Climbing Championships – an event that sees climbers race up a 15-metre wall in a head-to-head match-up.
The local speed climbing program is only in its third season, but at nationals all five Rock Wall climbers had a podium finish, with Lauren Larbalestier, in Youth C (12-13 years), and Teyha Rogers in Youth A (16-17) finishing as national champions in their classes.
Last August, in only her first season competing in the speed climbing discipline, Rogers competed for Team Canada in Arco, Italy and finished as the 17th fastest in the world in the younger age group of Youth B (14-15). With her first-place finish at nationals this year, she has again earned a spot on the Canadian national team and qualified to compete at the world championships in China this November.
Alexander White finished second in the Youth B class, and Kari Jurick was third in Youth A female. Megan White also attended the nationals, but the Youth C (12-13) competitor was sidelined by a snowboarding injury and was only there to cheer on her teammates, including her brother Alexander.
The team coach, Christy Spurrell, finished third in the women’s open class, and she will be in contention for a spot on the national team as well this year. She coaches the team, along with her father, Terry Spurrell.
He gives a lot of credit to his daughter for the excellent training regimen she has put together for the Rock Wall team. The 23-year-old has been a world class competitor, and to establish herself as a coach, she just completed her kinesiology degree.
“She has travelled the world with it, and now she shares her experience with them,” Terry said.
The sport involves training with weights and doing floor exercises, and also training for precision. An athlete like Rogers is climbing up the wall in just 13 seconds, so one missed foot hold will cost her a race.
“Being able to be consistent through each race is the key,” said Terry Spurrell. “You lose one race and you’re out.”
Speed climbing is a relatively new sport in Canada, but there is a well-established international circuit.
The official speed wall is 15m high with a five degree overhang, and is set with specific holds in a pattern that is exactly the same world-wide. Throughout the world, the majority of speed climbers train on 10m or 15m official speed walls but The Rock Wall climbing team trains at their club which stands a mere 6.4m high. Christy Spurrell has designed a training program that would allow their team to train on their stunted wall, but still challenge the rest of the nation for national team spots. She was asked by the national team head coach to present her methods at the Competition Climbing Coaches Conference last October in Banff.
The Rock Wall is one of the smallest climbing gyms in Canada and has been consistently putting out world class climbers since 2007. Many who have gone on to compete for Team Canada in all three disciplines of competitive sport climbing. Competitive sport climbing is also on the radar for the 2020 Olympics being one of the few sports on the short list for inclusion. That has thousands of competitive climbers excited about the future of their sport. Japan has more than 400,000 sport climbers, and as the host nation for the 2020 Olympics picked a new sport to debut in 2020. Japan has picked climbing from the short list but the decision must still must be ratified by the IOC during the summer Olympics in Rio.
So there may be an even higher ceiling for Maple Ridge’s world-class climbers to reach in the near future.