Climbers go head to head with gravity under blacklight

Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 9:41 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - About 66 million years ago, a rock struck the earth and sent dinosaurs to their extinction.

Over the weekend, dinos and rock met once again here in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Sort of, anyway.

A local rock climbing gym turned the lights down on Saturday night, but that didn’t stop climbers from pointing their gazes up during Ascension Rock Club’s Blacklight Dyno Competition.

Asked about the inspiration for the unique event, Ascension owner Bird Nelson said there’s a history here in town of climbers battling gravity under the other-worldly lights. “There used to be regular blacklight climbing events. It’s just been awhile, so this is very much me bringing them back,” he said.

Saturday’s contest differed from typical climbing competitions, which featured complex routes made up of numerous holds that tested many skills, styles and techniques. On the other hand, dynos, which is short for dynamic movements, challenged climbers in one particular way.

“Dynos are a very specific type of movement in climbing, where we’re moving in an explosive way or moving momentum to carry our energy from one hold to the next,” Nelson explained. “So a dyno competition really focuses on that specific style of movement,” he added.

The rules were fairly simple. Competitors started with their hands on large holds, called jugs, that were marked by colored tape. They then placed their feet on smaller holds before pulling upward to propel their body to a final hold marked by the same color of tape.

As far as scoring, Nelson explained: “For every attempt, or every fall, there’s a tenth of a point deduction. So, for example, if on your third attempt sent climb number 10, it would be 10 points minus the two tries it took you to get there, so 9.8 points.”

A total of 22 routes filled the walls, getting progressively harder from number one to number 22. The top five routes a climber successfully finished, or “sent,” counted toward his or her final score.

But having easy rules doesn’t mean having easy moves. Climbers frequently jumped high and gripped hard to earn encouraging cheers from the crowd, but gravity sometimes had its way, with athletes often hitting the mats — thankfully soft and cushy mats— with a thud.

About 20 people outfitted in white and neon clothes chalked up their hands and hopped onto the walls to compete at the event, and at the end of the night Nelson tallied final scores, splitting submissions into men’s and women’s groups.

Cassidy Meyer took first place for the women, and Thomas Macdonald secured the win among the men.

Nelson later told Newscenter Fairbanks he planned to hold future blacklight events, probably sometime in the Spring.

“We definitely will, but most likely while there’s still a lot of darkness. I don’t think the blacklights and midnight sun would go well together,” he quipped.