“Everyone says it’s not a sport,” said Ella Appich, a junior here at Freeman–“it’s a sport.” Ella has been rock climbing at Peak Experiences since she was nine years old, and she hasn’t looked back (or down) since.
“I remember going to a birthday party one time and I really liked it,” Ella said, “so I asked my mom if I could go back and she signed me up for junior team.” Caroline Appich, Ella’s mother, said, “I wasn’t surprised [Ella] took to it because there are so many facets to rock climbing that you have to master, and I knew she would never get bored doing it.” The first time Mrs. Appich ever saw Ella climb was “pretty scary, because she was so young and she was so high up.”
According to Ella, rock climbing competitions are scored by “how far you get up the wall compared to everyone else in your age group.”
There are two sections in climbing. Ropes is when the climber is strapped in while climbing. In bouldering, the climber is not strapped in and falls onto a mat. Ella prefers bouldering, although she is “better at ropes, which is inconvenient.” According to Ella, “bouldering is more like you have to think about it and figure it out…ropes is more like endurance and strength, and I’m really bad at figuring the climbs out.”
No one else in Ella’s family climbs. Mrs. Appich mentioned that she “got certified to belay and realized very quickly that rock climbing was not for [her]!” The person belaying is responsible for taking up slack and feeding rope for the climber.
Competitions, or “comps” as the climbers call them, have a “pretty laid-back” energy, according to Mrs. Appich. “We have this thing called isolation,” explained Ella. “You get [to the comp] and go into isolation for however long […] you can’t have your phone or anything.” They are not allowed to see the wall or talk to climbers who have, and climbers even have to walk backwards so they don’t see the wall until their time starts. “When you go to the bathroom, they make you look down,” said Ella.
Climbing helped Ella to “overcome any fear of heights.” The highest Ella has ever climbed indoors is 60 feet, but she has climbed to even greater heights outdoors. This past year, “I did 110 [feet] and it was so scary,” said Ella.
While climbing is a solo sport, Ella interacts with teammates, like Emma Galbraith, during Peak practices. “I’ve been climbing with Ella since I joined Peak Team in the fall of 2019,” mentioned Emma. Emma said that “Ella brings a lot to the team, but most importantly, she is always super positive.” During practices, “she always cheers on all of our teammates, and she’s never frustrated or mad at herself when she falls off a climb,” said Emma. Ella’s commitment to the sport paid off when she went to divisionals for ropes last year.
Climbing, falling, and failing are all parts of the sport. “I think it’s definitely [taught me] perseverance” and that “being able to deal with this [kind of] failure and improve because of it is really important,” said Ella.
Looking into the future, Ella said that she would climb in college “if I go somewhere that has a club team.” But, “if not, then I would just find a local gym.” Ella’s rock climbing journey won’t be ending anytime soon!
Having been a climber for seven years, Ella said that her favorite part of the sport is “the practices and the community.” Overall, said Ella, “I really enjoy climbing.” Mrs. Appich is equally enthusiastic about climbing. She said, “I think this sport is amazing in so many ways. It instills problem solving, patience, confidence, mental and physical strength, and the bonus of awesome biceps.”