• TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals: Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks: Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate: Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad: The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest: Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit: Hermann Gollner, 71, cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Best Five Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro—5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal: The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept: Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger: Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Top 10 Climbing Achievements of 2013
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak: Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery: The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem: Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller: National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best In Show: Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
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  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: My Favorite Bling Can Be Yours Too!
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower: Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: The Only Blasphemy
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem: Crawling, Balling and Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown: Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Best Sport for Kids?
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory: El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago: Athol
  • TNB: UIAA Issues Bizzare Indictment of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
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  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
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  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
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  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Passion of Grubb
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Unholy Matrimony
  • TNB: Bad Genes
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Your Most Psyched
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    WIDE BOYZ: Spradventure (Full Film)
    WIDE BOYZ: Spradventure (Full Film)

    TNB: The Best Sport for Kids?


    Doesn't look like much fun, does it? The CRMS climbing team gets a day out of the gym and into the desert. Photo courtesy of Tracy Wilson.“Use this foothold!” urges a girl, pointing, though she missed it herself two minutes ago.

    “You’re almost there,” says someone. “You got it!”

    Three kids on the mats dance to the pumping background music. Some practice flips, or whip each other around in flying dance moves.

    On consecutive weekends recently I attended a youth ski race and a high-school climbing comp. I also found out this: in my state of Colorado there are now more than twice as many high-school climbing teams as high-school ski teams. 


    The kids at the climbing comp roam the venue; they eat, scuffle. I have lugged over two boxes of Rock and Ice magazines, and they roll them into tubes for swordfights. Two form megaphones of theirs.

    “I hate you,” says one through his magazine, brightly.

    “I hate you more,” his friend returns.

    One kid wears a woolly Packers hat; another, Batman pajama bottoms. Girls mark chalk lines on their faces, though not, as I imagined, as war paint.

    “We were just bored,” one tells me blithely. They take selfie photos.

    A local boy named Sammy, in protest of his team’s requirement that everyone wear shirts, displays a sleeveless top knotted at the waist, as a girl would, above skintight short shorts.

    “He’s just being a pest,” one of his teacher-coaches says, somewhat fondly.

    A girl in the corner fights up a moderate-level problem, giving it everything, and the whole auditorium erupts in cheers.


    A league website lists 16 different high-school ski teams in Colorado, while there are three dozen high-school climbing teams in the state. Fourteen ski teams just went or sent someone to State Championships, and 26 climbing teams attended their States. (These numbers do not count ski-club teams or climbing-gym teams.)

    The obvious reason for a disparity in numbers is expense. Even for high-school ski racing, which is fun and inclusive of every skill level—drawing both top kids who ski for area clubs and also intermediates in padded pants instead of speed suits—you need skis, boots, poles, helmets, goggles. And lift tickets as well as entry fees. (For club ski racing, the cost jumps.)

    Granted, youth climbing can get expensive: at the top level are gym teams, coaches, national and international travel. But to join a school team and participate you really only need access to a bouldering wall, a pair of shoes and a chalk bag; and many schools have a rack of shoes to borrow, while it’d be pretty hard to lay in a supply of loaner skis. Climbing participation fees vary, but event entry fees (nominal at $10 for regular events, $25 for States) cover venue costs. At the event I attended, some groups had team T-shirts and others didn’t.

    People in any sport all learn and work together. But there is something exceptionally inclusive about climbing and working out strategies per each problem together.For a ski race, you tune skis and drive hours, spend a weekend, and race for, oh, 40 seconds or so, either once or twice a day. My sons used to ski race, and I loved the sport, but eventually they chafed at the time and travel demands, especially versus the time on course.

    At a climbing comp, you usually try various problems. At the one I watched, held in the gym at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, the kids climbed as many problems as they could during three hours, with the field of 200 divided into morning and afternoon heats. So while a fall can still break their hearts, and will dictate placement, they get a lot of mileage.

    Skiers of course are friends and have fun. At the ski race I watched recently, hiking up to the start and waiting by the netting, peering around for the numbers of local kids I knew, the group hooted and called out exhortations and nicknames when a buddy was in the gate. Sometimes kids sidestepped vigorously up the hill to get a better view of a favorite on the course. Kids at ski races laugh, knock each other out of their skis, throw snowballs; when they’re little they make forts.

    A student grabs the ending jug while his peers spot and cheer below. Photo by Gretta Wilson.People in any sport all learn and work together. But there is something exceptionally inclusive about climbing and working out strategies per each problem together, with feedback every step of the way, and how kids of varied body types can climb well. In past days when I taught climbing, I noticed how often a smaller kid, who might not stand out in conventional sports, would shine in a group; and also from years ago I remember Scott Franklin, a powerhouse but short-statured, saying he’d futilely tried to play football, and in ice hockey “got slammed up against the boards.” But he was one of the country’s top climbers.
    “Climbing is a great sport for kids,” he said, way before today’s era of ubiquitous youth groups.

    I had intended to stay until about noon at the climbing comp, just for the first heat, watching and cheering. I ended up yelling, spotting and giving beta all day, eventually looking at my watch in surprise to see that it was after 4 p.m.

    As I looked around, I probably never saw even one child complete an entire problem—four to eight moves, taking one to three minutes—in a vacuum. Someone almost always cheered, spoke, urged, was heard, from right nearby. When you are out on a ski course, for those 45 seconds you are alone. The climbers were never alone.

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