These Kids are Climbing Places

Written by Holly Chen

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USA Climbing: Bouldering Youth National Championship

February 8th-10th, 2019


Shoes laced, the nerves up, the muscles warmed and stretched as climbers across the nation chalked up for the USA Climbing Nationals in Redmond, Oregon. With climbing making its big debut to the world stage in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, questions on who will represent Team USA plague the minds of the climbing community. More so than usual, an undeniable chatter of excitement surrounded the Bouldering Open & Youth National Championship. Pacific Edge is proud to announce that two of our very own Team Edge kids; Rosa Paten (age 12) and Isaac Wax (age 13) competed (and crushed!) at Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond early February.


USA Climbing, recognized by both the United States Olympics Committee and the International Olympic Committee, made some changes in anticipation for Tokyo 2020. In the Bouldering Open and Youth Nationals, each competitor faced a series of short but highly demanding boulder problems. There are no ropes, just a landing mat, and the contestants had no prior knowledge of the routes. Each competitor was scored based on the highest hold obtained with control and the number of attempts at each given problem. They had 4 minutes to complete each problem or risk elimination. Climbing is evolving—oohs and ahhhs from a galvanized crowd, last minute Hail Marys, and a ticking clock. Suddenly climbing has become the ideal spectator sport rather than the crusty, solitary lifestyle for those off the beaten track. The winners of each event/age category (Bouldering, Speed, and Sport) will be considered the National Champions of the United States.


“I’m not surprised they made it,” said Sage the Beast Weseman, the Head of Team Edge and a certified USAC Coach. They are both extremely talented and dedicated kids—Rosa, who’s slight figure disguises her extraordinary strength; Isaac, who spends more time at the gym training than not. They did well in keeping their nervousness in check in the days before the competition. To make it to where they are, one must compete and place in Local, Regional, and Divisional competitions. The top 6 in each age/gender category in Divisional receive an invitation to compete at Nationals.

In a conversation with Toni Sanchez (Team Edge Coach, USAC certified) he told me Rosa’s style is focused on power. “Dynamic moves are Rosa’s strong suits, and she is good at engaging her shoulders and core,” said Toni. Unlike roped climbing or even regular gym bouldering problems, “comp-styled” boulder problems involve powerfully dynamic moves that borderline on parkour. Gravity-defying jumps, seemingly impossible balancing acts, and slopers thrice the size of their hands, it is Rosa’s time to shine. “They have been doing everything in their power to prepare,” continues Toni as he described their training schedule. The kids trained 10 hours a week with the coaches, put in their own time before and after sessions, and traveled to other gyms to familiar themselves with adapting to unknown terrain. Stability, strength, and balance are their central focuses. Isaac is an avid outdoor climber, and he has a solid understanding of the technical approach needed to excel in comp-styled routes. Problem solving skills is another aspect that was put to the test. While route setters have intended beta, each climber must adjust and adapt depending on their strength and height. In last year’s competition, Claire Buhrfiend turned a dynamic move static because of her height at 5’11 on the Women’s first problem at the Finals, but Alex Puccio at 5’2 had to figure her away around the impossibly far away hold. It was exciting to see Isaac work his magic, and the creative ways he made the problems work for him.

Both Rosa and Isaac have been robbed of their opportunity to proceed to Nationals in previous years. Rosa broke her foot right before Regionals last year, and Isaac was held back due to an 11-way tie for first place at Divisionals. While this might be the first time they are competing at this level, Toni is certain it won’t be their last. Let’s give it up for all the coaches (Sage, Toni, and Freddy) for their mentorship, patience, and knowledge, and a high five to Rosa and Isaac for being crushers. See the kid who flashed your month-long project? It’s probably them.

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