Psicobloc jocks to climb wall above ‘sharks’ at Olympic Park
By brett prettyman
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 17 2013 01:56PM
Park City • Sharks are not something typically associated with climbing nor a form of wildlife common in Utah, but the two will meet during a unique international climbing event July 30-Aug. 2 at the Utah Olympic Park splash pool.
A massive climbing wall will be placed next to the pool for the 2013 Psicobloc Master competition and sharks — of the inflatable variety — will be cruising in 750,000 gallons of unheated water.
"I’ve dreamed of putting on an event like this for years," said internationally recognized climber Chris Sharma, who essentially created deep water soloing — which is basically climbing without the use of ropes over water. "I really believe this is the format to take the sport to the next level."
The inaugural Psicobloc climbing competition was held in Bilbao, Spain, in 2011 over a river. The Utah competition will feature climbers hitting the wall in a duel format with the first one to reach the top advancing to the next round.
Mike Beck, a local organizer for the event, said he, Sharma and others in the climbing world have long talked about holding a deep water soloing event in North America.
Beck gives Kevin Bradburn, president of Momentum Climbing, credit for realizing the best opportunity was in their own backyard.
"He said there had to be potential of some sort for setting up a wall next to the pool," Beck said. "We had a meeting at the venue and it was obvious it was a perfect setup for our plans."
The event, which has come together at break-neck speed since April, was planned to be held during the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market convention being held in Salt Lake City at the same time.
"The entire outdoor industry will be here and it is a great time to be able to showcase this amazing form of climbing," Sharma said. "The best athletes are also in town; it just makes sense."
Sharma is well-known for developing the practice of soloing without rope assistance over water. He did so on the cliffs of the Spanish island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea. Recognizing that remote locations are not great places to hold competitions, particularly ones planned to promote the sport, he came up with the idea of moving it to more accessible locations using artificial walls.
An exhibition and athlete demonstration for invited climbers will be held at Utah Olympic Park on July 30 and is free to the public.
Climbers can also qualify for the Psicobloc during a preliminary round July 31 at Momentum Climbing gym in Sandy. The public is invited to watch the climbing there from 4 to 10 p.m. The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s division will advance to the semifinals being held Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. at the pool. The finals take place Aug. 2 at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the semifinals ($15) and finals ($20) are available only via the Momentum website. Tickets are limited and expected to go fast.
Those not able to make the finals can watch the event live via a webcast from Louder Than 11.
"We want to share this with everyone in Utah," Sharma said. "It will be one of the most unique competitions in the world."
Beck says plans are already under way to make Psicobloc an annual event at the Olympic splash pool.
"We have had amazing support for this. Everybody loves the idea," he said. "It should be a lot of fun the climbers, the people watching and attendees from Outdoor Retailer. Everyone is talking about this like it could be a long-term relationship from all sides."