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Built on community and travel experiences, climbing club reaches for more

Built on community and travel experiences, climbing club reaches for more

Ben Sivoravong climbs during a Thursday night climbing club practice. Sivoravong is president and assistant coach of the climbing club and first started climbing as a freshman at UNT.

Built on community and travel experiences, climbing club reaches for more
March 28
15:36 2018

The climbing club at UNT does things a little differently than most clubs on campus.

Not only do they meet at the Pohl Recreational Center to practice and climb, but they also travel together and compete against other schools in the region.

When they compete, they split off into their events and receive points based on the completion and difficulty of the path or route.

“In bouldering, there is no rope involved,” senior Aden Walker said. “It is a 12-foot wall usually, and you have pads below you. Each route is marked with tape and those routes have different difficulties. You get more points for how difficult it is. You want to [finish] 5 climbs. We compete against teams like University of Texas, University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M Commerce.”

When the club is not competing they travel to famous climbing sights or work on technique and body health. Traveling as a group takes a lot of organization, but the club’s travel manager, senior Ben Sivoravon, keeps things running smoothly.

“As travel manager, I make sure the members of the club never have to see any paperwork for it or have to worry about where the money is coming from or where it is going,” Sivoravon said. “I make it simple for them so they can focus on the other parts of the trip.”

Members of the climbing club train on a campus board. Campus boards are commonly used to build strength and are climbed using only your hands. Rachel Walters

That’s another unique aspect of this club.

They have a group of officers dedicated to getting the climbers to where they need to be. They even have two team coaches, not including the organization’s president. Mia Alfanso is one of the coaches and uses her many years of experience to help her climbers.

“I have been climbing for 14 years but seriously competing for eight,” Alfanso said. “A lot of people are in the club to have fun, but a lot of people really want to progress as well. What I tell them is, ‘You want to be a balanced climber.’ So we challenge people that just do rope walls to try to go to a boulder gym because it is a really good way to get stronger, and it transfers back to ropes too. I tell them to keep trying and stick with it and don’t compare yourself to other people.”

The climbing club is layered with events and competitions which allows their athletes to be free to choose their path.

The club focuses on body training as one of the many keys to becoming a more efficient climber, but many of the exercises and lifts vary from climber to climber.

“I do fast stretches as opposed to slow arm circles,” Walker said. “One of the muscle groups people don’t work on [in climbing] is triceps. Pull ups are huge. If you could just knock yourself out on a pull up bar, you’ll be good to go. It’s a lot of practical strength, not a lot of showy muscles.”

Climbers believe in community despite the club competing as individuals. To them, bonding over climbing is the best feeling in the world.

“I’ve been climbing for three years,” Sivoravon said. “If I am climbing stuff that is pretty easy for me, [my friends and I] just have a good time and hang out. It is a very social thing in that aspect. If I am training, I am really locked into where my hand needs to be and where my feet need to be, but initially what got me into climbing was the community. I think that speaks for a lot of us. It is very close nit with the outdoor pursuits community because the outdoors pursuits center runs the climbing wall at UNT.”

Because of their chemistry, the athletes love their team traveling trips, not just to competitions but climbing trips as well.

Members of the climbing club take turns bouldering. The club travels to various locations to climb and compete. Rachel Walters

“There is a lot of camping involved with trips,” Sivoravon said. “On a climbing trip only like five percent of the trip is climbing. The other 95 percent is getting to the wall, walking through jungles, camping out for the night and eating food that really isn’t the best food. So if you aren’t with a group of people that are fun to be around, that would be a miserable experience.”

Many of the athletes enjoyed the fall semester because they do all of their climbing outdoors instead of competing indoors like during spring.

The climbing club meets on Thursdays at the Pohl Recreation Center, and they will host a climbing competition April 22 at UNT.

“We go out on trips every other week,” Sivoravon said. “We’ll go down to Austin or Oklahoma. Spring break we had a trip down to Arkansas to push Oak Canyon Ranch, which is a big climbing area. It’s a nine-hour drive, and we spent the whole week there. It is a big part of what we do.”

Featured Image: Ben Sivoravong climbs during a Thursday night club practice. Sivoravong is president and travel manager of the climbing club. He first started climbing as a freshman at UNT. Rachel Walters

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Stefan Washington

Stefan Washington

UNT Advertising Major| NT Daily sports writer

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