As one might expect, our president’s boast about his border wall was received by the climbing community as a challenge. To avoid being caught and kidnapped in handcuffs by Border Patrol for playing on the actual structure, I decided it would be safer to build a replica of a section of the wall and have a climbing competition. . I finished the build a week after the POTUS made its “impassable” declaration and luckily the build was finished a week before Rocktoberfest here in the Red River Gorge. This huge gathering of climbers from across the country provided a wealth of talent to try out our replica wall.
After announcing our Border Wall Comp on the rock and ice website, the project has gone incredibly viral across many major outlets. For a week before the Comp and during the event, I was bombarded with interviews and video shoots. A team of 8 people came from New York to cover the event for the show “Full Frontal by Samantha Bee” on TBS.
Although I expect the contestants to use other methods of climbing the wall, such as ropes and ladders, nearly all opted to free climb the structure. Many of the fastest climbers used heel-toe jams between columns, while a few preferred the coconut tree climbing technique more.
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When the competition ended on Saturday, 65 competitors had practiced their climbing skills on our wall. First place went to Casey Crowder, second to Erik Kloeker and third to Javier Luna. All three completed ground-to-ground ascents in less than 14 seconds.
Check out this free solo video of Erik Kloeker with Trump’s wall replica after the official composition!
Our replica was built to the exact dimensions of the 18-foot-tall bollard and plaque design of the wall being installed at the US southern border with Mexico. There are two versions of this design, the only difference being the overall height. The shortest is 18 feet tall and appears to be the most commonly installed today. To keep our construction costs reasonable, I chose to build this replica of the 18ft version and use wood instead of steel.
The tallest version of the wall rises to 30 feet. Our Comp climbers agreed that the easiest part of the climb was the bollard columns and that the extra 12-foot climb in the top version would only add a small amount of extra effort.
At the top of the vertical columns is a 60-inch-tall, vertically oriented blank steel plate, which was apparently added to an earlier bollard design to make it “impossible” for climbers to reach the top edge and pull themselves up. . In our competition, two climbers – the first and second place winners – were able to dyno to this edge from the bottom of the wall bollard.
The current wall is erected in sections 8 to 10 feet wide, the top 60-inch plate overlaps its adjacent plate, leaving gaps between the vertical edges of up to several inches. This design flaw allows climbers to pull laterally on one of the two edges of a plate. Therefore, we allowed competitors to use either of the two vertical edges, and, indeed, that is what most chose to do to cross that part of the structure.
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The online response to our event has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging in thousands of posts. A comment posted by a few non climbers was about the extra structure I added to the top of the replica to provide an eyelet anchor for a belay rope. These people had the mistaken idea that the lifeline was somehow providing unfair assistance to competitors, which of course it was not.
Organizing this event in less than two weeks and pulling it off was a blast. But I’m glad it ended without injury to either the contestants or me by my Trump-supporting neighbors in this Appalachian community. It was nice to retire in the dark.