10 questions for junior rock climber Zach White


Submitted by Zach White

Junior Zach White swings on to the wall as he climbs up. I am hoping to make it to nationals, I have been super close before. At divisionals, it’s a two day event, and both times I’ve placed at divisionals, I have placed 11th,” White said.

Junior Zach White used to rock climb just for fun, but one day he received a letter from Vertical Endeavors inviting him to come try out for one of their climbing teams. At first he joined thinking that he would never take it very seriously, but now White climbs very competitively on the elite team at Midwest Climbing Academy, an institution dedicated to improving and supporting serious, competitive rock climbers.

1. How and where do you train?

I have been training at this place called Midwest Climbing Academy, and that’s located out of Minneapolis. Basically, it’s a rock climbing gym, but it’s solely dedicated for kids who are training for climbing [competitively]. It’s not a commercial gym like… Vertical Endeavors.

2. What is the main difference between normal rock climbing and the climbing that you do?

For me, climbing is very competition based… I like to compete against other people. I am, as a person, kind of competitive, so I enjoy climbing in a competition. The community is competitive, but people are always cheering each other on and it’s super laid back.

3. What is one of the hardest parts about competitive rock climbing?

I like to do bouldering more than I do sport climbing. Sport climbing is climbing with ropes and longer routes, whereas bouldering is 5-10 moves on a smaller area. The hardest [part of] climbing for me, is climbing smart. A lot of the time I just try to use brute strength and pure muscle to get through things.

4. What got you interested in rock climbing?

Three years ago, I got a letter from Vertical Endeavors. I don’t know why, it was really out [of] the blue, and they were like “hey you should come try out, we have some team opportunities.” So, I went and tried out for that. I stayed on that team for a year. Then I moved up to one of the harder teams, got pretty strong there, and then at the end of freshman year I got an invitation to the [Midwest Climbing Academy] and I tried out and made their elite team.

5. What is something people might not know about competitive rock climbing?

A lot of people assume that rock climbing is based on time, or how quickly you can do a climb. There is speed climbing, which is actually based off time, but that represents a very small portion of rock climbing.

6. What types of climbing are there?

For speed climbing, the routes you are doing are very basic, anyone could climb it. It’s just a matter of getting up it fast. There are two others, bouldering and sport, and with those the formating is a lot different.

7. What was the best experience you’ve ever had rock climbing?

This winter, I got to go out to Glendale Heights, Illinois, and I got to compete at the divisional level, which [has] some of the best climbers in the midwest, and I thought that was really fun.

8. What was the worst experience you’ve ever had rock climbing?

There was this one time at Vertical Endeavors where I was climbing near the top. They have this big pit, and I was lead climbing. I hadn’t attached the last two quickdraws, so if I [had] fallen, I would have swung out into a railing, and probably broken both of my legs.

9. What are your goals for the future?

I am hoping to make it to nationals, I have been super close before. At divisionals, it’s a two day event, and both times I’ve placed at divisionals, I have placed 11th. You need to be in the top ten to move past the second day. I’m kind of bummed about that, but next year if I train hard enough, I should be able to make it to nationals.

10. Do you always climb indoors?

I tend to climb indoors, but climbing outside is definitely something I want to do a lot more. Climbing indoors is so much different than climbing outdoors. Outdoors, you’re climbing on real rocks, not something that was made or set by somebody. [When you climb] indoors you’re climbing on a route that was set by somebody.