Some people aspire to getting to the bottom of things – Burnaby climber Chloé Earle always wanted to get to the top of them.
Earlier this month, 14-year-old Earle belayed her way to third place on the podium at the Canadian national youth climbing championships in lead climbing in Saanich.
The bronze-medal placing also earned the Grade 9 Burnaby North Secondary student a first-time qualification to the International Federation of Sport Climbing World junior championships in Arco, Italy this summer.
“I started because I climbed trees, rocks, fences and I wouldn’t stop,” said Earle in an interview with theNOW. “I really enjoy it. I didn’t realize I’d be doing it for the rest of my life. But each day it’s a new thing for me.”
Earle’s third placing in the girls’ 14/15 B category age group was just half a point, or one hand hold, out of first place behind the two co-winners in the difficulty competition.
Not bad, for a young climber who aspires to turn pro one day and challenge the best in the world on the European circuit.
“I definitely want to do this for a living,” she said. “One day, I want to be on the World Cup circuit. I’d like to train in Europe where it’s really big.
Going big is likely the reason why Earle has risen to among the top of her age group in a relatively short period of time.
She began scaling walls at Climb Base5 in Coquitlam when she was seven but didn’t compete seriously until she was past 10.
“I just wanted to do the competitions for fun. I didn’t really realize it was a sport. But I realized I was really good. My competition rankings were among the top scores,” Earle said.
Earle went to her very first nationals last year in Montreal, where she finished in ninth place after starting at the bottom of the rankings in lead climbing where climbers use ropes and clips to secure themselves to the wall. She also entered the bouldering championships, (climbing without a harness) in Burlington, Ont.
Earle came away with a newfound appreciation for how difficult her chosen sport really is and went to work devising a plan on how to become a better climber.
“For me, it’s the ability to get stronger,” she said. “It’s something I want to do – to train five days a week and change my mental game.”
Her mom Danielle, who used to coach ballet, helped her eldest of three daughters with the mental part. The physical element came from plain, old hard work, training three hours a day.
Dwelling on the negative when you are holding on to a sheer surface with just your fingertips can lead to one of two things – cutting loose – where a climber loses their foothold and, with legs dangling in the air, is literally hanging on for dear life.
“Or, I might catch myself, and I’m probably freaking out, and try and relax and get it out of my brain,” she said.
“In the moment, I don’t really have an emotion. I just try to get one hold higher. It’s just hard. It takes a lot of energy.”
In competitions, climbers are allowed to scope out the routes and watch the competitors before a climb – checking the degree of difficulty and where the best rest areas and handholds are.
But in the top 16, climbers are on their own with only a short, six-minute preview before tackling the wall.
Earle’s goal at the worlds is to make it past the qualifiers and into the semifinals.
“I’m not sure what to expect,” she said. “I don’t think about it. I just do it because it’s really fun. It pushes my limits and my teammates, they are always older than me and I want to catch up. I always learn something new.”
Earle also says it’s a great sport for women and girls.
“It’s more challenging and different from sports like soccer. It’s amazing how strong women can be from that,” she said. “It’s amazing.”