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Millcreek Journal

Athletes, amateurs compete in ‘electrifying’ competition at The Front Climbing Club

Feb 03, 2023 10:10AM ● By Sara Milano

Climber and route setter Zoe Bitters races against the clock. (Photo courtesy of Alyssa Bokovoy and The Front)

Professional climbers and amateur enthusiasts alike gathered to compete in The Front Climbing Club’s Di’namik Bouldering competition during the week of Jan. 9. 

According to The Front, the competition was first held in 2014 “with the intent of bringing back the electrifying, gritty style of those historic competitions. Since then, Di’namik has become one of the most well respected and intoxicating competitions in the nation.”

The Front has hosted the annual bouldering competition for several years, which aims to “bring people together and lift the climbing world to new levels,” according to events manager Brenna King.  

The Front’s first location, originally called “The Body Shop” when it opened in 1989, was in the area now known as Millcreek. The climbing club has since opened three locations—one in Ogden, one in downtown Salt Lake City, and most recently, a Millcreek location at 4140 S. Main St.

The Di’namik competition began on the evening of Jan. 10 with the professional qualifiers event. From there, six men and six women advanced to the pro finals, which were held the following day. 

The event is timed, with each climber having four minutes to successfully complete each bouldering problem. One man and one woman climb simultaneously on separate routes set specifically for the Di’namik competition. The athletes tackle six different bouldering problems throughout the competition, with the routes and holds being reset halfway through the competition. 

The climbing walls ascend from floor to ceiling and athletes competed on an elevated surface under bright fluorescent lighting, landing on cushy black mats if they fell. A DJ played a loud set in the background and emcees cheered on the climbers and kept the crowd engaged. The overall environment more closely resembles a rave rather than a sports competition.

Once the clock began, athletes grabbed their brushes and began scraping chalk from previous climbers off of the holds to achieve a better grip. From there, climbers scrambled along the route and attempted to reach the final hold. 

Director of Community Impact Alexx Goeller explained the setting team “had to work triple overtime to get all the routes set up.” Goeller said of the route setters’ strategy: “They want to make it just challenging enough but obviously make it doable, so I think there’s a lot of apprehension when they’re watching…several people don’t make it to the top and then that one person does, and it’s like ‘yes!’”

The winners of the pro competition were Natalia Grossman on the women’s side and Hamish Mcarthur of the men. Grossman is a World Champion in bouldering who recently relocated to Salt Lake City to train at the USA Climbing Team’s team base. Mcarthur hails from England and placed third in bouldering at the 2021 Climbing World Championship. 

On Saturday, local climbing enthusiasts of all abilities competed in the citizen’s competition. The Front’s Marketing Manager Colt Jarvis explained that the citizen’s competition was for “people that climb more as a hobby but would maybe like to explore competing.” The event had different categories for beginners, intermediate, and advanced amateur climbers. 

Jarvis described the overall goal of the Di’namik competition “is to bring together all aspects of the community, so pro climbers, enthusiasts, community members, nonprofits.” 

Several nonprofits, who are members of The Front’s impact coalition, attended the event, and Goeller told the City Journals that the club “does a lot to support local nonprofits in the areas of mental health, homelessness, clean air and environment, and obviously climbing stewardship.” 

The climbing club also offers yoga, jiu jitsu, and a full gym with cardio machines and free weights. The club partners with community climbing groups, such as Color the Wasatch and Salt Lake Area Queer Climbers, who are hoping to increase representation of marginalized groups in climbing.   

Jarvis expressed excitement about changes in the climbing community over recent years, saying the sport “has grown and become more accessible” with the availability of gyms, a welcoming atmosphere, and no need for excessive equipment. 

Staff at The Front repeatedly describe it as “so much more than just a climbing gym,” but rather, as Jarvis says, a “community space where people can come and not only climb and exercise but be part of something bigger.”