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Photo by Nick Weinstock

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A Round Up of the Spot Gym’s Bouldering (and Paintball Comp), January 19, 2008

Born and raised in Alabama, I’m all too familiar with gun shows. I’ve never actually attended one, but I have been caught in the crossfire — trapped among the teeming gun-lovers pushing to get inside a convention hall, to ogle that “killer” gun scope or that dreamy gun rack so perfect to display within their mud-covered trucks.

So when I first received the assignment to cover “The Gun Show” on Saturday, January 19 (having only moved to Colorado two weeks prior), one thought crossed my mind: was Matt, who’d assigned the story, mocking my heritage? With images of camouflage, animal carcasses, and men named Billy Ray dancing in my head, I set out to learn the truth.

It seemed “The Gun Show” was the latest themed competition at The Spot, Boulder’s awesome bouldering gym. Arriving a little before 6 p.m., I was relieved and excited by what I discovered – Mohawks and dreads replaced mullets, climbing shoes adorned the feet rather than cowboy boots, and chalk bags, instead of obnoxious belt-buckles, hugged the waistline.

The bonus activity was paintball — hence the name “The Gun Show”. In the corner alongside the 25-foot toprope wall, course-setters had rigged black mesh and black plastic to create a contraption resembling a batting cage, performing a similar function — contain the chaos within. That night the chaos was climbers target-shooting with a paintball gun. The rapid fire kicked off toward the end of the competition.

Photo by Nick Weinstock

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The “Whap, Whap, Whap…” of the paintball gun and the slightly deranged laughter of the shooters broke the trance-inducing techno music, spun by TJ Burchfield. I slipped out when I remembered the bar and beer upstairs, a bit wary of discovering the end result of boozin’ and paintball gunnin’.

With about 100 spectators turning out for the event. The Spot’s competition was a hit. Approximately 136 competitors took to the problems — representing a wide range of ages and skill levels. Congrats to the winners of men’s and women’s open brackets: Paul Robinson and Ally Dorey. (Check out the full comp results and other upcoming events at The Spot by visiting www.thespotgym.com.)

I caught up with Seth Lytton, a Spot employee and one of the setters. Lytton, along with an army of setters (12 total), tackled the important task of constructing the comp’s routes one night earlier. Lytton has been a setter for two years and explained how the majority of the competitors are locals, but the comps do attract talent from surrounding areas.

The Fountain Valley High School climbing team — three coaches and 20 students — traveled from Colorado Springs to attend. Commented the freshman Jose Garcia, “This is the best facility I’ve been to… very open with lots of climbing opportunities.” He was also psyched about the super-cushy floors.

As I wandered about, snapping photos and mingling with both bystanders and climbers, I noticed a welcome absence of anger, ill will, and derogatory or negative remarks – not even a string of cuss words slipped out from personal frustration. Competitors, it seems, have come a long way from the dark, wobbler-soaked days of early 1990s comp history.

Competitors cheered on one another, clapping when each climber topped out. I heard climbers willingly offering Beta, and laughter and jokes floating throughout the facility. The absence of prizes (only raffles and giveaways) helped reduce the amount of pressure felt by competitors.

The jovial, relaxed atmosphere combined with the DJ, pizza, and bar made me feel more like I was at some bizarre party than at a competition. Mark Hobson, an avid climber of 11 years, agreed with me about how super-chill the event was and noted the after-party would be pretty sweet as well.

John Deere and Carhartt won’t be found listed as sponsors of this gun show. Thanks instead go to the following companies: La Sportiva (title sponsor), Trango, Neptune Mountaineering, BitterSweet, Randall Scott, Katy’s Hand Jam, Bent Gate Mountaineering, Boulder Mountaineering, Brian Solano Productions, and backcountry.com.