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Climbers gather at the rock wall at the Ping Recreation Center.

Weekender Main: Outdoor Pursuits to host rockwall climbing competition

Judd Walker prides himself on his hands-off approach with Ohio University Outdoor Pursuits events. As assistant director of Outdoor Pursuits, Walker loves throwing fun events for students and Athens residents to come and enjoy, but what he loves more is watching his graduate and undergraduate students take the lead on these events. 

One such event is the 21st annual Rockstars Climbing Competition on Saturday, Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. This all-day event at the Ping Recreation Center is an opportunity for people to have fun with their friends while strengthening rockwall climbing skills.

Walker believes that after 20 years of hosting the competition it’s now embedded within Athens culture.

“It's been around longer than most of our students, you know,” Walker said. “To me it’s an important part of our campus culture and has been for a really long time.”

There are three different skill levels: recreational, intermediate and advanced, and there will be a different competition within each of the skill levels. 

Each division has four routes that people have to climb, and their scores are based on how well they climb in each route. As the route progresses, it will become increasingly harder. In climbing terms, a recreational division climber will start off at around a 5.8 and by the last round be around a 5.10.

Throughout the day, when they aren’t climbing, people can enjoy food from various sponsors and some Rockstar Energy drinks.

Winners of the competition will get to choose their prize off of a table full of prizes, such as a Black Diamond helmet and pilot, a tent from Recreational Equipment Inc., a few other big ticket items, as well as gift cards to various stores and restaurants. There will also be other games like corn hole and can jam for people to enjoy while waiting for their turn to compete. 

Walker’s hands-off approach with OU Outdoor Pursuits events leaves the opportunity for students like Kelsey Gallagher, a senior studying marketing, to step up and help lead the event. 

Gallagher has a minor in outdoor recreation and education and is the climbing wall supervisor for the rockwall at Ping. She coordinates the competitions by reaching out to corporate sponsors, setting up the wall for the climbers and trying out the routes herself to make sure they work for the competitors. 

“I’m usually around to help manage and make sure everything’s okay,” Gallagher said. “This year, I’m actually climbing in the competition because it’s my last one, so I wanted to climb in it for fun.”

Registration for the Rockstars Climbing Competition is only $30 and is open to not only students, but anyone who wants to come and take part in the competition. Walker and Gallagher encourage people of all skill levels to come and participate.

Frannie Cornett, a freshman studying undecided business, appreciates the fact that Ping hosts events like these for all people, but specifically for students. 

“It’s a good opportunity for students to get away from their studies,” Cornett said. 

More than just her excitement for the event to go well, Gallagher feels a special connection with the climbing competition because she’s been involved with it since her freshman year, even before she was promoted to climbing wall supervisor. 

In her last year of participating, she’s starting to feel the melancholy of saying goodbye to something that has been so important to her for so long. She has loved seeing the event blossom over the years from a handful of participants to now having to turn people away. However, she feels content graduating because she knows the event will be left in good hands.

“It’s been really neat seeing the climbing community grow,” Gallagher said. “Also just seeing the staff take on various roles and being involved in teaching the next wave of climbers, route setters and staff members that will be here after I graduate I think has been really fun, and has helped me realize the impact of the work that I’ve been doing.”


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