Bouldering festival to highlight lesser known climbing spots
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – From practice to sport to spotlight, a climbing discipline that was once relegated to goofing around or preparing for longer ascents will get its own event this weekend.
The Meyers Climbing Festival will celebrate all things bouldering Saturday and will include competition at some off-the-beaten-path climbing spots at the South Shore.
The man behind the event, chiropractor Josh Welch, moved to the South Shore in 1997 specifically for climbing and created the festival after seeing an unfilled niche.
“We have things for bikers, but not for climbers,” Welch said.
Bouldering encompasses climbing without a rope on rocks that are typically between eight and 20 feet tall, Welch said. The routes climbers take are described as “problems” and encompass some of the most difficult moves a climber would undertake on a bigger climb.
South Shore climber Jay Lee described bouldering as “climbing distilled.”
He didn’t call it easy.
Compared to roped climbing, bouldering involves “a lot harder moves in a shorter amount of time,” Lee said.
Climbers place a “crash pad” underneath their routes to cushion a fall, but a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag are really the only equipment needed to get started, Welch said.
The ease of entry to the sport, its power and grace, as well as its social and family-friendly nature, make bouldering an activity that can border on an addiction, Welch said.
“You instantly feel connected and you know it’s something you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” Welch said.
And the connection appears to be growing.
“Bouldering is just blowing up here,” said South Shore climber Jesse Bonin.
Saturday’s competition will highlight several local spots that are not highlighted in Lake Tahoe guide books and is attracting climbers from as far away as Colorado.
Revealing lesser known spots would be sacrilege in some of Tahoe’s other recreation circles, but there is plenty of granite to go around, according to Bonin, Welch and Lee. Each said the Tahoe is on the verge of becoming a bouldering hot spot.
“Every time I think it’s been tapped, it seems like everybody discovers five new spots,” Bonin said. “I don’t think we’ll ever map it out.”
Welch said the guide book that will be given to competitors will include more than 120 lesser-known climbs and doesn’t even scratch the surface of the number of problems at the South Shore.
“There’s so much good stuff out there,” Welch said.
The festival’s competition will take place starting at 9 a.m. at boulders in the Meyers area. The balance of the event starts at 2 p.m. next to the Divided Sky and Downtown Cafe and will entail beer, bouldering and barbecue. The three “B’s” play on a the outdated Gill B-System of rating the difficulty of bouldering problems.
Welch said the reaction from everyone he has talked to about the festival has been along the lines of “Tahoe needs this” and said he hopes the festival will be a meeting place for a climbing community that rarely gathers in one place.
“We have a big climbing community that doesn’t get together that often,” Welch said.
More than $2,000 in cash and prizes will be given to competitors, but that isn’t the point, Welch said.
“Climb to climb,” Welch said. “Don’t climb to win and you’ll have fun.”