Travel, Sports

Climbing, a sport on the rise in the province

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Early in the morning during the first days of August, we were able to see the best climbers in the world compete for an Olympic medal in Tokyo 2021 for the first time in history.

In the Olympic Games, sport climbing consists of three disciplines: speed (climbing a 15-meter (49-foot) high wall as quickly as possible), bouldering (strength test that requires completing three short but very difficult routes in the least amount of attempts possible) and lead climbing (test that requires a lot of endurance to climb as high as possible on a 15-meter (49-foot) wall).

Tokyo 2021 is a huge platform for a sport that many people consider relatively new, but in recent years, the community of climbers has grown and expanded throughout the country. Although a large number of climbers and gyms are concentrated in the Central Valley, places like San Carlos and Liberia now have spaces to practice climbing.

Altitude got its start four months ago, when its managers decided to bring a complete gym from Turrialba and put it back together on the outskirts of the “white city,” Liberia.

“Everything can be reborn again. We cut apart a gym that was already ready in another place, with a life of its own and that died in a certain way. So we wanted to come to restore all of this history here in Liberia. We’re climbing on walls that have already been climbed, with another form, with another design,” explained Jorge Leal, one of Altitude’s managers.

Last weekend, this climbing gym hosted one day of the 2021 National Bouldering Circuit. There are four competitions in different gyms throughout the country.

“We held competitions in each of the gyms to create a community and then later we are going to do a competition circuit. I would hope that we can have championships with male and female winners next year at the national level,” Leal said.

Even though this climbing gym opened recently, the sport is not new in the province. Since 2013, climbers began to crawl up the stones of Libano in Tilaran. Brothers Chase and Mason ‘Caz’ were among the first to do it.

Chase explained that he has been climbing semi-professionally for more than 10 years and that if the country handled this discipline like soccer, he would surely be part of a national team. He believes that climbing is still a very underdeveloped sport in the country, but that it is about to change “now with the Olympics and the number of gyms that are popping up all over the place.”

“About 16 years ago, I left the country because I didn’t think there was climbing here. And on a vacation that I took to come visit family, I took a little trip to see if I could find some rock, if anything. In the end, it ended in an odyssey of more than 200 blocks, 200 very good individual lines,” Chase related.

In the same community of Tilaran where he started looking for rocks to climb with his brother, Libano Waterfall Park now exists, a place that combines nature and outdoor climbing, a fundamental characteristic of this sport.

“There is hardly a sport like it that lets you have so much creativity and so many special moments in nature,” said Chaze.

Jorge Leal, from Altitude Liberia, agrees with the climber that the province has a lot of potential to develop this sport.

“There are rocks everywhere, which is also important. It’s not like something very easy to find. The climate is also very advantageous, a dry climate for almost eight months. Rain is complicated, but that’s why we have indoors, to be strong for the summer,” added Leal.

Beyond the big advantage offered by nature in Guanacaste, Leal added the good conditions that the city of Liberia has for climbing to really take off.

“Here there is already a city way of life. They have an airport, accessibility to highways, access to beaches, the best resorts in the country. In any part of the world, where there is a big city with these characteristics, there is a climbing gym.”

Both agree that positioning the sport could attract climbers from other countries looking for destinations where they can train during the winter. There is still a long way to go to do this, but it’s a medium-term goal.

Jorge explained that his next step is to develop a sports association to motivate other gyms to do the same. With these associations formed, they could take the step to create a federation and with funds from the Costa Rican Sports and Recreation Institute (ICODER- Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación), they could further promote national competition. “It’s what we need to be able to send some delegates to the next Olympics,” he added.

The motivation to professionalize climbing in the country is a big motivation, but it’s not the only one. Leal dreams of continuing to expand the community so that more people can learn about this sport and lifestyle.

“It has changed my existence in many ways. But people should know that there are people here who are worth it and who can teach you different things. You can dream in another way. The movement, the blue sky, seeing the stars when climbing at nightthey are experiences completely out of a normalized plane in a sport,” he related.

Where can I climb in Guanacaste?

Altitude Liberia

Phone: +506 8565-3678

Facebook Page: Altitude Liberia

Libano Waterfall Park

Phone: +506 8807-2256

Facebook Page: Libano Waterfall Park

Climbing Nosara

Phone: +506 8319-6957

Facebook Page: Climbing Nosara