Climbers get higher at Squamish gym 

Three take provincial honours

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SHANE MURDOCH - GETTING A GRIP Ground Up Climbing Centre has helped athletes like Lily Bouchet drastically improve their climbing.
  • Photo by Shane Murdoch
  • GETTING A GRIP Ground Up Climbing Centre has helped athletes like Lily Bouchet drastically improve their climbing.

In just its second year of full operation, a Squamish climbing gym has produced three provincial champions.

Ground Up Climbing Centre opened officially in late 2015 and brings in athletes from all over the corridor, including Whistler.

"We've only had one full year of team competition and team experience," said head coach Judith Hirsch, who climbed with the Austrian national team for a decade. "We're in the middle of our second season now.

"It definitely grew a lot and we gained experience in the first year, seeing the things that worked well and seeing the things that need to be changed to make it a better program to help the kids more in their development."

Hirsch noted the program has three experienced full-time coaches as well as a couple of part-timers who help out.

In addition to strong coaches, Hirsch also credited the 19 athletes for their dedication and commitment to the team.

"They want to become better climbers, so they're willing to work on weaknesses," she said. "They're willing to train and work hard."

At the recent bouldering provincials in North Vancouver, a handful of athletes performed well enough to qualify for nationals in Quebec City in March. However, at this point, only youth A female provincial champion Kate Bonnell has opted to go. Ground Up climbers Winter Robichaud and Finn Henderson were second and third in the youth D female and male provincial championships, respectively.

Other results from provincials came from: Zoe Henderson and Sofia Aragon (12th and 13th, respectively, in youth D female); Nicole McLeod (18th in youth C female); Griffin Tulk, Owen McJannet and Kaz Kinney (12th, 14th and 15th in youth C male); Lily Bouchet (18th in youth B female); Matt Witwicki and Jordan Tulk (seventh and 11th in youth B male); and Bonnell, who also took 14th in the open category.

Three junior climbers, meanwhile, finished with top-10 overall rankings as Sam Bonnell and Matt Ogilvie-Turner were fifth and eighth, respectively, among the men, while Kate Viner was seventh among women.

Hirsch said with the vastly different levels of experience between the club members, though the results were different, a number of them far exceeded expectations at the event.

"Some kids already had shown really good results in the last year, but with some kids, we've seen a lot of improvement, a lot of development, in the year that they've been working with us," she said. "It's a bigger event. All the kids had good results, but I'm not just speaking about the ranking. It was the way they performed, the things they could figure out, and how they excelled compared to other competitions that they had prior to that."

While Bonnell is the only climber currently set to go to nationals, though others qualified, Hirsch said more will likely attend in future years.

"Some are deciding that where they rank well now is within the provincials, so they want to excel there, become a better climber and become more experienced with competition and planning before going to the next bigger event," Hirsch said.

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