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Squamish Rampage returns after year-long hiatus

The not-for-profit climbing competition and mentorship event will run from Aug. 1 to 29.

After a year-long hiatus, Squamish Rampage is back.

The local not-for-profit climbing competition returns following its cancellation due to COVID-19 last year.

"We were kind of on the fence whether we would want an event this year because of COVID," said Jeff Yoo, head organizer of this year's Rampage.

"Last year's event was cancelled, and I think what we decided, in the end, was like, after such a difficult year for everyone; everyone feeling so isolated and feeling disconnected, we felt like running this community benefit would be such a great way to bring the community back together. It gives people something to talk about, something to engage in with each other. So we thought this is probably the best time to run an event like this. To get everyone back into the swing of things — to make us feel normal again."

However, this year, event organizers will still remain mindful that crowd sizes can still be a risk for COVID.

As a result, organizers are testing out a new month-long format that's aimed at dispersing crowds over a longer period and a wider area. And folks will still be encouraged to follow masking and distancing rules.

Before, the competition was a one-day event that had between dozens to hundreds venture into the Grand Wall boulders for a single day.

However, this year, participants will sign up on an app that will include a checklist of climbs that are to be completed over the month of August. Also new to the event are the types of climbing that will be part of the competition. A grand finale will happen on Aug. 29, where winners and prizes will be announced.

Previously, Rampage focused only on bouldering, but, this time, there will be a category for route climbers who are interested in sport and traditional climbing.

The bouldering challenge will have five pre-selected boulders at each grade of difficulty, and roped climbers will face four sport routes and a traditional route at each grade.

The idea will be to get the most challenging climbs in the least amount of attempts.

However, organizers were aware that in the past, one of the highlights of the event was having an experienced volunteer show people through the bouldering forest while offering pointers on how to ascend the rocks.

While this year that won't happen in the same way, Rampage will be holding clinics every weekend for the first three weeks in August where people can sign up and learn how to up their game.

All of the proceeds will go to the Squamish Access Society, or SAS, which acts as a steward for climbing areas in Squamish. People who register for the event will be eligible to become voting members of the society.

Previously, much of the proceeds went to Climb and Conquer, a charity that offered underprivileged youth gear and mentoring to get started in the sport. However, this year, the charity signalled that it doesn't need funds, as its operations have been reduced.

Organizers hope that Rampage will give people a chance to experience some of the mentorship that's become harder and harder to come by as climbing becomes an increasingly popular sport.

"In the past, most of the people getting into climbing would have a mentor. They'd help them out, show them what the rules are, how they interact with the forest and be good stewards of the environment," said Emilisa Frirdich, the SAS representative on Rampage's organizing team.

"But now you get a lot of people getting into coming just from the climbing gym and you can start with your friend who's not that experienced, but then you're missing that mentorship. So I think the goal of Rampage was really to help fill that void."

Yoo said that part of that entails a co-operative spirit when it comes to interacting with fellow climbers.

"I think sometimes we need to teach people that it's not about one-upping other people, but it's about encouraging people and giving them the opportunity to send at their own limit and find their own fulfillment from climbing," he said.

And, of course, the next priority is making good memories.

"What we realized in the first event is that [for] so many people, it was their first time," said co-organizer Luke Alden.

"I met my long-time partner at the first Rampage and we still climb together, so it really helps the community."

Squamish Rampage will run from Aug. 1 to 29, with a grand finale on the 29th at 9 a.m. on the Stawamus Chief Grand Wall parking lot.

Registration and details can be found on Facebook and on Instagram at @squamish_rampage.