Louisiana rock climbers test their skills in BR competition

Louisiana is devoid of any sort of geological formations suitable for rock climbing, but that didn’t deter Angus Armstrong from showing off his vertical skills on Saturday at the Louisiana Rock Climbing Series.

“It’s a challenge but a fun challenge,” said Angus, 12, about rock climbing. “It’s also attracting; you can’t get away from it once you start.”

The young climber snaked his way with ease up the 30-foot rock wall tower at the BREC Extreme Sports Park on Perkins Road, which served as the location of the first competition of the second annual series.

Angus has been climbing at the BREC tower for a little more than a year. Most any afternoon, you can find him at the BREC tower, along with fellow competitor and Baton Rouge resident Sunny Day, 8.

Sunny showed no hesitation when skillfully making her way up the wall, as she has learned to do from a year’s worth of climbing.

Both youths owe their knowledge of the sport to lessons taught by Lee Guilbeau, the climbing coach at the BREC tower and one of the organizers of the series.

“We pulled together public climbing gyms to tie in a really fun and interesting way to get more people engaged and interested in rock climbing,” Guilbeau said.

Additional competitions will continue at the Rok Haus climbing gym in Lafayette and Slidell Rocks climbing gym in Slidell in the spring or summer.

Participants climbed the tower via “holds” securely attached to the faux rock surface to offer a pathway up the wall. Specific routes marked with colorful tape next to each hold ensure competitors knew which way to go.

“Essentially, the routes that the climbers climb are rated by difficulty, and you get scored points for completing those specific routes,” said Tyler Hicks, The Backpacker general manager and series organizer. “You get penalized for how many times it takes to complete a route.”

The competition featured three divisions: children, intermediate and advanced.

Nick Sereda, Catholic High School senior, patiently waited for the start of the advanced division. After only eight months of climbing, Sereda can confidently maneuver the routes.

It’s less about physical strength and more about mental strength for Sereda. Getting stuck on the wall without knowing what direction to go in is something that can be hard to overcome, he said, but figuring it out is what attracted him to the sport.

For James Claitor, CHS senior who introduced Sereda to climbing, the allure was more the physical aspect of climbing.

“I’m a wrestler and work out a lot,” he said. “It’s really fun and you also get a workout.”

Claitor has been to California’s Yosemite National Park to experience the world-class climbing there. Trips such as his aren’t uncommon among the close-knit Baton Rouge climbing community.

Louisiana Rock Climbing Series organizers said part of the reason for the event is to bring more awareness to the sport and to serve as an outlet for fellow climbers to connect with one another.

“You always hear from young people that there’s nothing to do in Baton Rouge,” Hicks said. “There are young adults traveling to the Ozarks and Smokies for these weekend trips. There is the opportunity to hook up with these groups of people. If being in the outdoors is your passion, you don’t have to move to Colorado or Tahoe to be able to do that. You can live down here and get hooked up with the right people and supplement it.”

Winners were named from each division, with three places available for each. Competitors have the chance to participate in the rest of the series, whether they placed or not.

Points will accumulate from each individual competition, and by averaging them together, winners in each category will be crowned.

Grand prizes for series winners include harnesses, climbing shoes, sunglasses and a gift card to The Backpacker.

To sign up for the additional competitions for the series, visit facebook.com/LArockclimbingseries.