Many in the climbing community were amused a couple weeks ago when our POTUS held a press conference at a section of his latest border wall design—a series of parallel square steel posts with a 5-foot-high plate at the top. “This wall can’t be climbed,” he stated. Newsweek reported that the President boasted about how “the federal government tested the structure by having 20 skilled mountain climbers attempt to climb it,” and no one could.
No one in our climbing community knows any of these 20 mountaineers. I doubt if they exist. More importantly, to declare something to be impossible to climb to a bonafide rock climber is to issue a challenge.
So, I decided to build an exact replica and hold a competition. Although I’m 75 years old, I am still an active rock climber and hold certification by American Mountain Guide Association as a Single Pitch Instructor. It helped that I’m also a retired engineer.
We will be hosting the event on land my wife and I own in the Red River Gorge region of eastern Kentucky, adjacent to Muir Valley. (We’re the founders of Muir Valley, one of the premier rock climbing preserves in North America.) The dates are October 11 and 12, which coincides with one of the largest gatherings of climbers in the U.S.—an annual event called Rocktoberfest.
The configuration and design is dimensionally identical to the 18-foot version of the bollard wall (vertical steel square columns) now being erected along our southern border. With volunteer help from a few climber friends, I built and erected the section of wall over a four day period.
To keep the competition as safe as possible, we will be belaying the climbers from a master point higher up on the structure in a manner similar to wall climbing speed competitions. In no way will the belay either impede or assist the climbers; it’s simply there for safety.
There will be several categories, the details of which are currently being developed, as there is no history to draw from. Prizes and trophies will be awarded. There will be no entry fee, and each entrant will have two attempts in his/her chosen category, the fastest time of the two being the entrant’s official time.
Correction: A former version of this article incorrectly attributed the quote from the Newsweek article in the first paragraph directly to President Trump.