An interesting phenomenon is taking place in the sport of climbing. No longer is climbing an exclusive "mountain" club. Gone are the days of a California/Colorado-centric scene. Things have changed, and the new faces of climbing are emerging from pancake-flat places like … Plano, Texas.
For example, take a look at what went down at last weekend's Psicobloc competition in Park City, Utah, where the women's four semi-finalists, Claire Buhrfeind, Alex Puccio, Delaney Miller, and Grace McKeehan all hail from the plains of North Texas.
These ladies didn't grow up climbing on steep limestone tufas or slopey sandstone boulders. In fact, these world-class climbers learned to pull hard by scaling the only “rock” they have … which is at the Summit Climbing Gym in North Texas with Kyle Clinkscales as their coach.
Regardless of the fact that these ladies rarely climb outside (besides Alex Puccio), and for the most part train in the very controlled setting of a climbing gym, the Texas girls had no problem pulling an all-points-off, 5.13a dyno 40 feet above a 10-foot deep pool of water. I know 5.14 outdoor sport climbers that would show more hesitation on the 50-foot high headwall of the women's finals route than the 16-year-old Claire Buhrfeind—this year's Psicobloc champion who showed up and qualified to participate in the comp and then proceeded to decimate the competition. Where do you learn to have composure soloing 5.13, 55 feet above a shallow pool in Plano, Texas?
As a climber from the Mississippi Delta—a swath of country so flat you can stand on a milk-crate and see six miles further—I've often felt like an outsider. But recently, I've noticed that some of the best climbers in the world come from equally climbing-deficient places. And these climbers are not only dominating the competition scene. Take, for instance, the "Plastic Prince," also known as Nico Favresse who started out in a climbing gym in Belgium and now climbs 5.14 trad, 5.14d sport and 5.13 big-walls.
There was a time when naysayers believed that gym rats would only ever climb well inside. But now it seems that the future stars of climbing can come from anywhere … as long as there is a climbing gym.