Reaching For New Heights: Claremont Climbing Team Members Ascend To Nationals

The Claremont Climbing Team, a new 5C club dedicated to rock climbing, is sending Cyrus Moassessi PZ ’20 (pictured), Alex Goldstein HM ’18, and Laurel Melton PZ ’20 to the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship in Houston. (Courtesy of Claremont Climbing Club)

This weekend, three 5C students will take on some of the nation’s best climbers and scale some of the toughest rock walls.

The Claremont Climbing Team, a new 5C club dedicated to rock climbing, is proud to have Cyrus Moassessi PZ ’20, Alex Goldstein HM ’18, and Laurel Melton PZ ’20 competing at the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship in Houston. All three athletes placed in the top 10 at a regional competition in March, which qualified them for nationals.

Moassessi and Goldstein will compete in bouldering, while Melton will compete in bouldering and speed.

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that doesn’t use ropes or harnesses. In competitions, bouldering focuses on the number of climbs completed in a given timeframe. The fewer attempts it takes a climber to finish, the more points the climber receives. For speed competitions, climbers have to race to the top of a 50-foot wall.

Moassessi was introduced to climbing two years ago when his family friends took him to a climbing gym.

“I ended up falling in love with the sport instantly and carried that into college,” he said.

This is Moassessi’s first year climbing competitively, and he is excited to represent Pitzer at the national championship.

“I’m really only going to nationals for the fun of it, not necessarily just to compete.” Moassessi said. “It is a goal of our team to create a fun climbing environment where people can just show up and climb for the fun of it, because climbing is fun.”

The climbing club was founded this semester by Melton, who has been climbing since fifth grade.

“I was looking to switch from gymnastics to a new sport, so I tried out for the youth team at my local climbing gym,” she explained. “I loved it from the first day and have been climbing ever since.”

In seventh grade, Melton qualified for nationals for the first time. She has competed in nine youth nationals and three adult nationals during her climbing career.

Melton said her personal goals are to eventually be in the top 10 for bouldering and make the U.S. climbing team by getting her climbing speed under 12 seconds. Her current record is 13.53 seconds, but Melton is confident that she can reach her speed goal.

At a climbing competition last year, Melton realized she didn’t really know the other competitors, which gave her the idea of starting a team at the 5Cs.

“Climbing is a good way to meet people and build an inclusive group,” said Elena Cox PZ ’20, the team’s outreach director. “[Melton] wanted to create an official group of people who could climb together, be serious about climbing, and get better.”

Practices are held three times a week for an hour and a half at a time at Hangar 18, a gym in Upland, but Cox said many climbers usually come in early or stay late to practice more. Practices involve different workouts focusing on endurance, speed, or skill. Team members also work on climbs they want to improve.

“Sometimes we have to stay on the wall or do a challenging climb for a certain amount of time,” Cox said. “It really pushes us to our limits.”

The climbing competitions are “red point” style, meaning climbers are given a specific amount of time to try to finish climbs of varying levels of difficulty. Each climb is worth a different number of points based on its difficulty.

“There are usually a few very difficult climbing sets, usually three to five for bouldering competitions.” Melton said.

The top five climbs are scored by judges. The process is intense, but Moassessi also described it as “a very calm and inclusive environment.”

“You don’t have to be a nationally ranked climber to join the climbing team,” Cox said. “Anyone can try it.”