Inside the Big Tex Bouldering Competition, a Friday-night Party with Dallas' Best Climbers

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The most dedicated and winningest rock climbing gym in Texas held a competition on Friday night, the "Big Tex Bouldering Competition," produced by Summit Climbing gym.

It was a display of super athleticism, and an exhibit of the finest climbers in Texas. Not to mention there were four kegs of beer, burgers and hot dogs, and they kept this nourishment at the bottom of the rocks where I could reach it. So that was nice.

It was clear from the start that there exists a bond within the mass of 150 competitors. They've all trained or climbed together, so the competition unfolded with familial rivalry, encouragement for everyone. They are chalk-dusted brethren, and their relaxed enthusiasm was contagious.

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Matt Lawson
Alex Kenyon warms up
"Its all about trying to get all of the climbers in Dallas together, and having a gigantic bouldering competition, and essentially a huge party," says Stan Borodyansky, co-owner of Summit. He hit homeruns in both categories. Better than the cold Deep Ellum IPA I was gulping was the spectacle of competition.

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Matt Lawson
The tired crowd awaits some wheat made refreshment

The competitors were divided into four categories based upon their overall climbing skill: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Open. Each competitor was given a scorecard to keep track of their progress. A competitor needed to complete five climbs in 3 hours to have a decent shot at placing in their respected category.

The competitors were divided by males and females first, then asked to select a category. The climbers then climbed freshly established routes to compete and attain higher scores. The scorecards were turned in, tallied and announced.

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Matt Lawson
Dalanie Millen during finals

10 O'clock approached, and the competitors handed in their score cards. During the shifting of exhausted athletes and the tapping of kegs, the main wall named "Big Tex" was prepared for the final on-sight competition. Two staff setters armed ladders and wrenches for the quick bolting of two new routes. An on-sight competition only works with two new problems unseen by the competitors; each of the five climbers sits with their backs to the problem as their opponents have five minutes to work it out. They sit blindly so that they have only five minutes to complete to route from the time that they lay eyes upon it, testing the climber's ability to establish their beta -- the way they plan to climb a route -- and execute it on the fly.

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Matt Lawson
The setters scurry to set the final problems

Two routes were set. The line for food stretched around the parking lot, empty red cups rendered everyone a bit looser, and all of the lights were shut off, except for one hot spotlight on "Big Tex." Music began to blast from the speakers, and the top five male and female climbers were brought out to the booming base of Jay-Z.

The climbers were announced, and then sat facing the crowd as the final showdown was set to unravel. Before us lay the final 10 broad-backed climbers, who somehow maintained buoyant attitudes. They were friends more than colleagues; brothers more than combatants.

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Matt Lawson
Onlookers find their seats before finals begin

The spotlight on Big Tex was the perfect decision. One male and female climbed on opposite sides in dramatic lighting, and if I hadn't possessed a red cup of IPA I would've I was in a theatre. The lighting put the audience in the dark and the focus of the large crowd squarely on the competitors. The lighting heightened the drama and made the finals spectacular.

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Matt Lawson
Dominic LaBarge dynos in the middle of the final problem
In the end, two Team Texas climbers stood on top. Dalanie Millen beat Dana Riddle for first, and Dominic LaBarge topped Brian Antheunisse by completing the last problem in a mere two attempts.

I left there Friday thinking: This is a culture I should be a part of. If their competitions feature beer, theatre, music and food, can you imagine what their parties are like?

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