New Canaan native Lucy Wilks, 13, will compete in USA Climbing's youth bouldering national championships this Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo. USA Climbing is the governing body of all competitive climbing within the United States, and bouldering is one of its three official competitions. The others are sport climbing and speed climbing.
Youth climbers must finish in the top seven of their region (there are five in the country) to qualify for nationals in any of the competitions.
Competitive bouldering is held indoors on an artifical wall that typically tops out at 15 feet off the ground. While competitors do not climb with the help of a harness or any rope, there is a large pad at the bottom of every wall to cushion potential falls. In official competition, climbers are scored on the completeness and difficulty of their path to the top of the wall. Each route presents a unique problem, and the competitive climber must solve it in less than four minutes to qualify.
Wilks began climbing three summers ago after she spent a week- long stay at a summer camp sponsored by The Rock Club in New Rochelle, N.Y. In the fall of 2012, she joined The Rock Club's competitive team and started competing at local events held throughout the tri-state region.
Nowadays, Wilks will practice climbing four days a week for three hours a day. While most of her climbing takes place inside, she did travel last summer with her coach and teammates to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky for 14 days of outdoors climbing.
Last summer, Wilks competed in the youth sport and speed climbing championships in Atlanta, Ga.
Recently, rock climbing has seen a large popularity jump in the U.S.. The first American indoor facility dedicated to rock climbing was built in 1987. Today, there are over 300 indoor rock climbing facilities dedicated to the sport, 28 of which were built in 2013. All three disciplines of competitive rock climbing were under consideration to become new events at the 2020 summer Olympics, but none were selected.