OGDEN — Le Evans of Salt Lake City crimped and pinched his way to the top of an 18-foot indoor climbing wall on his first attempt, while his mother Hao operated the camera below.
“Every day he goes out and he climbed the trees,” Hao Evans said of her 9-year-old son.
Le Evans was one of 170 participants, from 7 to 19 years old, competing Saturday in the American Bouldering Series Regional Championship for the Southern Mountain Region, which takes in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
The all-day event was hosted by The Front Climbing Club, located at 225 20th St.
Between competitors, coaches and family members, club officials were anticipating 450 people attending the regional competition, which determines who advances to the Divisional and National Championships.
This is the first time the Ogden club has hosted the regional bouldering event, which is a form of rock climbing using a crash pad instead of a rope as protection.
Competitors are given four minutes to make their way to the top of the wall, with scores awarded based on height reached in the climb, time and the difficulty of the route taken.
The competition has climbers twisting their bodies and swinging their legs upward, trying to place the edge of their feet on the next available peg in moving up the wall. And while the competitor’s legs step-up and then brace in preparation for their next step, their chalked-up hands hold tightly to similar-sized pegs for leverage in preventing them from falling to the mat.
It is a dynamic gymnastic form of climbing, with the contest broken down into different age groups and by gender, said Shad Burnham, gym manager for The Front Climbing Club.
Rock climbing at the local level is becoming increasingly popular, Burnham said, with 30 to 40 percent of Saturday’s competitors coming from Utah.
The increase in interest local people have for rock climbing can be attributed to Ogden’s close proximity to the mountains, Burnham said.
“There is no place you can live this close to the mountains (for the money),” Burnham said about Ogden offering families surrounding mountains at an affordable price.
Besides, the Ogden area is rich in climbing history, he said.
But there were more than just locals competing Saturday.
“I like how you can try different moves,” said Clay Gordon, 11, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
“It kind of keeps you guessing,” Clay said, referring to difficulty in the climbs.
Fellow Arizonian, Wyatt Haden, 9, of Flagstaff, said he has been climbing since he was 4 years old. “I like puzzles and stuff, and it is kind of like a puzzle,” he said of trying to determine the easiest route up the wall.
One of the best local climbers at the competition was Devin Hammonds, 11, of Ogden.
Devin, who last year qualified for nationals in Atlanta, said he has been climbing for three years, his interest in the sport coming from climbing in the Wasatch Mountains near his home.
Devin credits his success to being able to make slow, deliberate moves while climbing, or what those in the sport refer to as static movement.
Ogden youth climbing coach Jason Delight said Hammonds is one of the better young climbers from the area, but he enjoys coaching all the area youngsters to help them reach their goals.
“They’re getting fit and strong without even knowing it,” Delight said, “because they are having fun.”
The Saturday event was sanctioned by USA Climbing, the national governing body of competition climbing in the United States.