Will future big names all come from competitive gym climbing?


Original Post
Legion Lee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15

Vast majority of the big names in trad/aid/cutting edge climbing today who are under 40yo all seem to have grown up in the competitive gym climbing world, not just dabbled in it, but were ingrained in it...

Caldwell
Jorgesen
Trotter
Ondra
Honnold
Harrington
Rodden
Digiliuan
etc.

So it seems being a competitive gym climber is almost a prerequisite these days to make it as a professional climber, even if your interest is in trad, big wall, alpine, even mountaineering to a certain extent. Maybe the competitive climbing circuit is evolving into a farm system where future major league stars will come from.

True? Are there big names who never competed in a gym?

Lurker · · Westwood · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 2,835

Colin Haley?

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

Hayden Kennedy

Bill Mustard · · Silt, Colorado · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 60

Didier Berthod, Nico Favresse, Sean V, Mason Earle, just a few.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

What about the wideboyz from england?
Tom & Pete

Zac St. Jules · · New Hampshire · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 1,133

Ive been thinking about this a lot lately. Maybe not necessarily gym climbing but from a sport background.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,430

Indoor climbing competition seems to garner the most sponsorship. Sponsorship also has a vested interest in exposing their athletes to push product. So it's no surprise really that these pros that you mention are on the tip of your tongue. They get the most visibility. I would venture to say however, that there are plenty of people out there, perhaps just as many, doing really gnarly things at a consistently high level that have eschewed sponsorship or just never were viewed as marketable.

I don't think it really matters what your background is. At the end of the day, you can either do the shit or you can't. Having a "head start" in a gym can be as much of an inhibitor as it can an augmentation or advantage. It all depends on the person. You can find badasses from every walk.

Matt Zia · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 171

Kate Rutherford and Madeline Sorkin

Nick Grant · · Natick, MA & Tamworth, NH · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 15

The kids on the climbing team at my gym (CRG, Watertown) start young — real young — and they train hard (at least two hours) three days a week and get great coaching. Some of them climb at the gym on weekends as well. How can any outdoor set-up compete with that?

In today's world, nobody would ever ask, "So it seems that swimming in an indoor pool is almost a prerequisite these days in order to become an Olympic swimmer."

or

"So it seems that playing hockey in an indoor rink is almost a prerequisite these days in order to become an NHL player."

Ah, yeah. Duh.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

My guess is that very, very soon, there will be even more growth, and more interesting facilities, in indoor/outdoor artificial climbing. People like to climb stuff, that's something we are taught to grow out of. So, outdoor climbing for those of us who are inclined that way. Indoor, could easily become a sport very much like gymnastics, especially as creativity gets applied to artificial climbing apparatus. A few years from now, they may be as disparate as biathlon and ski jumping, and downhill. All directions a kid could go who straps on skis when they're little.

If nothing else, indoors invites charging for spectatorship. And, last I looked, couch potatoes outweigh, ahem, outnumber those who actually do stuff by a pretty hefty, ahem, large, ahem. A bunch.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

I wonder how long it will take this thread to devolve into and old vs new climbing debate and circle jerk. I've got my bingo card ready

Legion Lee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15
Nick Grant wrote:In today's world, nobody would ever ask, "So it seems that swimming in an indoor pool is almost a prerequisite these days in order to become an Olympic swimmer." or "So it seems that playing hockey in an indoor rink is almost a prerequisite these days in order to become an NHL player." Ah, yeah. Duh.
Not really a good analogy. The original observation was about kids going from gym competitions to big outdoor climbs... big transition.

That is very different than a swimmer going from an indoor pool to an Olympics indoor pool. Or a hockey player going from an indoor rink to an NHL rink... not a transition at all really.

Based on other comments here, it actually seems like there are plenty of high end climbers who come from all backgrounds, not just gym competitions, though it seems it'll eventually skew heavy towards gym climbers. Not trying to debate... was just curious :)
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35
Legion wrote: Not really a good analogy. The original observation was about kids going from gym competitions to big outdoor climbs... big transition. That is very different than a swimmer going from an indoor pool to an Olympics indoor pool. Or a hockey player going from an indoor rink to an NHL rink... not a transition at all really. Based on other comments here, it actually seems like there are plenty of high end climbers who come from all backgrounds, not just gym competitions, though it seems it'll eventually skew heavy towards gym climbers. Not trying to debate... was just curious :)
I agree somewhat, not totally though.

Your original hypothesis and tone seem to suggest surprise that the people who do difficult big routes as adults are the ones who have always done difficult routes. The only difference is that the scope has changed because they've grown up. In that sense, the analogy to swimming or hockey is perfect.

It's the world were in, it's all refined and every angle is explored. In order to be world class at anything, you need to start as a child. This will become even more true in another generation (when the kids I'm thinking of grow up).
Nick Grant · · Natick, MA & Tamworth, NH · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 15

Legion, the comparison that I was trying to make is that, back in the day, Olympic swimmers trained outside in a pond, lake, or sea. NHLers trained outdoors on frozen natural surfaces. But today, both swimmers and hockey players have specialized indoor training facilities that allow them to train with much more frequency in a controlled environment. This kind of training has enabled them to make great strides forward in their respective sports.

And the same is true for all the young crushers who are emerging in the climbing world.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285

The essence of diminishing returns.


Mile run records (world record last set in 1999). Swap mile times for climbing grades and you get the idea - there won't be a 5.20 if people are being honest. Biomechanics and physics intervene. The chess guys had to face up to computers and climbers will have to face up to a new 'wall' and an old saw: 'a man's got to know his limitations'...

Jon H · · MD/DC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 123

I'm not seeing any diminishing returns on that graph. It looks quite linear, actually.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285

Yeah, right until 1999 when it hit the wall and no one since has broken that record since - 16 years with no progress when prior to that there was a steady - as you would say, linear - progression of people breaking the world record. Lately? How likely is it that someone will, and if they do, it probably won't be by double-digit seconds; more like by a sub-second to two seconds margin more likely. Again, diminishing returns...

Mike Hancock · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 20

The y axis is misleading.

NESteve · · Lake Placid, NY · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

Who cares?!?! gyms have taken the soul out of the sport and replaced it with plastic BS. I bet theres lots of guys out there with no sponsor who you dost read about in the magazines because there not sponsored and just climb because they love itstead of look at me I want to be famous!!!!! plastic, to sport to topdown "TRAD" I'd rather not climb 5.13 then cheat!!!! Its CLIMBING I thought the idea was to start at the bottem and go up not walk around first or pracise at some plastic cave next to the MALL!!! - oh I went "climbing" and then hit the gap next door NOT FOR ME!!!

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 735

They are all gym climbers,already now
and now.they cross the ranks from alpine to bouldering
To the Seven summits or is that eight summits?

I don't pull plastic but it is the type of climbing my kids like best.
It pains me, I want them to climb but the nearest gym is at least a 45 minute ride.
I do not want to be involved in the climbing gym business, anymore.
but I would have,
I looked into buying or renting the Borders Book space that became a planet fitness gym instead.

While I was looking into the idea I found that the rate of climber turn over was very high .
The stability of the business was going to damn the prospective that I would have to provide to lure in investors. I would have to disclose those and other facts that were counter to sound universally agreed to investment norms. Just the insurance and increase in rent due to the un coded structures used to climb on made the whole option a no or small profit driven enterprise.

The dollars could be made through aggressive teaching and outdoor, 'guiding'
again a thing that to do correctly needs to be a labour of love and an injection of personal cash & time . Both the money and time I think is better invested in college tuitions & selfish pursuits.

the graph I would like to see would show the rise in age of high standard climbers from the 60s into the next decade. In the late 90s? at the Red River in Kentucky it was a very young David Hume. I Think? Who said of the climb called the Maddness?, that it was nothing more than a gym ladder climb - or something like that, - just before he ticked his climb ? B.O.H.I.C.A.?

So the time that you speak of seems to already be upon us the change is now the future is now 5.16 is now and so the potential exists for a an 11 year old to out climb a 12 year old.

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 95

To the original poster, I am not sure that your examples actually clearly show climbers who have been "ingrained" in it. Caldwell, Rodden, Honnold, Harrington, etc., all were on the com circuit for a bit, and quite a few of them you could make the case that they learned the bulk of their initial climbing in a gym. But none of them particularly stood out in the comp scene. They are not in the same league of "ingrained" as folks like Alex Puccio, Sean McColl, or any of those 9a/comp monster Basques across the Atlantic. It is interesting that Alex Megos, arguably the best climber in the world after Ondra, is NOT a product of competitive climbing although he certainly was/is a gym rat.

Actually, if you look at a lot of the kids who have dominated comp climbing through the last 15 years or so, it's more a case of "where are they now?" rather than they being big names in the outdoor comp world. Nels Rossassen? Aaron Shamy? John Stack?

There's alway Ondra, who is definitely a dominator in the comp scene and the outdoor scene, but it is clear that he simply excels in climbing period, rather than "coming" from the gym/comp scene.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply