Not your average Bear Climb: Rock climbing competition to feature challenging new routes

The SLC's rock wall is being redone to prepare for the annual Bear Climb competition taking place this weekend. Mesha Mittanasala | Photographer

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

Rock climbing is one of the many recreational activities featured at the McLane Student Life Center, and the annual Bear Climb allows students from Baylor and surrounding schools to participate in friendly competition while exploring new courses.

Hosted by Campus Recreation, the Bear Climb costs $35 to enter and offers both morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday, one from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and one from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Prior to the competition, setters — those who design the course — completely redo the SLC’s rock wall and boulder pit, creating a variety of new challenges. Each participant is given three hours to complete as many unique routes as possible without falling or straying from the path.

Outdoor Adventure graduate assistant and rock wall manager Rachel Burduroglu said splitting up the competition accommodates more climbers and spectators.

“They’re all climbing the same stuff, but we can have a max number of 120, versus just 60 people in total,” Burduroglu said. “It allows us to have more people and, ideally, out-of-town guests.”

Houston senior and head setter Athan Lejarza said completely redoing the rock wall and boulder pit takes about a week to plan and complete with a team of about eight to 10 setters. A portion of the entry fee collected from participants helps staff the setters.

Usually, Lejarza and other setters reset three or four routes every week or so, but at the Bear Climb, every route is brand new. Burduroglu said this makes the event quite popular, and spots will likely fill up for both sessions.

“I think my favorite part is how many people come from around the state and even some people from out of state,” Lejarza said. “It’s just a really big group of a ton of climbers, and everybody is just in awe of the new stuff.”

Although most participants are Baylor students, the competition welcomes students from other schools as well.

“We will probably see 17 to 20 different universities represented,” Burduroglu said. “It’s open to individuals to compete, but every university has their club team … representing their school.”

Along with the participants, families and friends may attend the competition as spectators. There will be bleachers set up for people to watch, though Burduroglu said many prefer to watch the final moments from the banisters above.

As for the competitors, the Bear Climb welcomes climbers of all skill levels, but Burduroglu said he recommends moderate to intermediate climbers, as it may prove difficult for true beginners.

“There’s routes for everyone, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to see who the best climbers are,” Burduroglu said.

At the end of the competition, the top climbers will receive swag bags and gear from sponsors, as well as old climbing holds painted gold, silver or bronze, depending on their placement.

Those who wish to participate can register through the Campus Recreation website, with limited spots available.