By the time I tied into my first rope yesterday, the Coopers Rock Climb-a-thon had already become one of my favorite events of the year. Chris Irwin and I first stumbled across it last summer, fresh off two beautiful weeks of classic Gunks routes, and already planning to head to West Virginia that weekend for a bit of old school exposure at Seneca. We registered, raised money, and I put in a couple extra days of endurance work to get ready. Then that training became overtraining, leaving me with a pulled tendon in my foot two days before the event. Fortunately they let my mom take my place, and I still had a fantastic time watching everyone climb that day, which ended with my mom taking the prize for top female climber and Chris for top overall.
As soon as the Coopers Rock Climbing Guides announced the Climb-a-thon dates this year, I couldn't sign up fast enough. On the surface a climbing competition, the event is above all a fundraiser for the amazing adaptive athletic work done by Paradox Sports, and I wanted to make my time count. That's why I wasn't too disappointed when weather forced them to postpone it from the original June date to October, which meant four extra months to raise money. That time paid off, and my many generous donors helped me raise over $1000 for Paradox! I'm still blown away.
That postponed date also meant more time for their sponsors to add to their ridiculous collection of prizes, including a great hookup from my friends at Asana Climbing.
That's two tables full of donated items. While they did reserve a few big prizes for the top climbers, everything on those tables was given away as raffle prizes, with raffle tickets being awarded based on the amount of money raised. Such a great way to keep the emphasis on the fundraising and make sure everyone goes home with something nice. It's a good thing I gave away most of my raffle tickets, or I never would have fit everything in my car!
After the competitors meeting, we split into two groups. The first consisted of those who had never climbed before, which in itself is an awesome thing to have in a competition setting, and a testament to the inclusive nature of the event. While they got an introduction to the basics of climbing, the rest of us headed out to start the three hour climbing window. Unfortunately I only got one half-decent photo, but of course my mom danced her way up several routes, despite having been unsure of whether she even wanted to climb or not.
I'll admit I was a bit nervous. While my fingers felt strong from all of the hangboarding time I've been putting in, I haven't been doing as many routes as usual, and was worried about whether I'd have the endurance to climb well for that long. Fortunately I had taken the advice of my ultra distance athlete friends... Never Stop Eating. With temperatures finally low enough to use my oven, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to try out the cookie mix from Skratch Labs that Dana Bleiberg had given me, promising me that they were both delicious and idiot-proof. At least she got the delicious part right...
It turns out I'm much better at eating than I am at baking, and still felt ready to go after three successive laps on ten of the advanced/expert climbs, for a total of thirty climbs in three hours.
In addition to the beautiful trophies for being top climber and fundraiser, I walked away with a new harness, shoes, tent, and a whole weekend worth of camp food. Still trying to process that all.
I can't say thank you enough to the Hershey family and everyone else who works so hard to make the Climb-a-thon happen. Being able to pull off something that combines fun climbing with such a great cause, draws everyone from advanced climbers to those who have never tried it before, and makes sure everyone goes home with something... I can only describe that as event planning magic. However you do it, I hope you can keep doing it for years to come.