Rock stars — these locals are addicted to climbing

Paul Scott climbs at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. Scott said he climbs about three times a week. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Paul Scott climbs at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Cozeth Sykes climbs at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. Sykes said he started climbing regularly about five years ago. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Cozeth Sykes climbs at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Cozeth Sikes poses for a portrait at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Paul Scott poses for a portrait at the Crank Cave near Firth on Sept. 30. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Idaho and its neighboring Intermountain West are home to some of the best rock-climbing sites in the world.

The state’s tourism website, visitidaho.org, says Idaho is home to more than 1,500 climbing routes, including the famous City of Rocks and its neighbor, Castle Rocks. Locally, popular crags include the Heise area, Blackfoot River canyon and The Fins, near Howe.

The quality and quantity of outdoor opportunities from whitewater rafting to mountain biking to skiing are attracting adventure-minded recreationists from around the world to enjoy the region’s natural beauty. It’s no surprise that many of them have made eastern Idaho their home.

Today we take a look at some of the region’s most-skilled rock climbers — rock stars, if you will.

CHRIS GRAHAM

Age: 26

Occupation: Mechanical engineer

How long have you been climbing? Off and on for about eight years, regularly for about four.

What are your favorite places to climb? Red River Gorge (Kentucky), Maple Canyon (Utah). I guess the Gunks (New York) too, even though I barely climb 5.9 (moderately easy) there.

What got you started? I always climbed trees and buildings growing up in Chicago.

What motivates you? I like to think that I’m motivated by the challenge of pushing myself, especially the mental game of leading at my limit. I enjoy learning about, applying, and teaching the technical skills involved in climbing. The feeling of moving smoothly and calmly in terrain that used to feel impossible is part of it, too. I’d be lying if I said that showing off isn’t a factor as well, perhaps more than I’d like.

Worst injury: Broke my fibula and tore up the ligaments in my ankle a bit over a month ago bouldering at the gym. Got a plate put in, and will be out for the rest of the season.

What other things do you like to do? Really, I like being an engineer; I like designing and building things, and learning how things work. It seems like a lot of engineers gravitate toward climbing.

Dream trip: I’d love to spend some time climbing around the Mediterranean, perhaps on Kalymnos (Greece) or in the south of France.

Advice you would give someone starting out in rock climbing? Make a serious effort to understand how the safety systems work; not just how to use them, but the underlying principles behind them. Also, don’t become complacent; the fact that you survived doing something before isn’t proof that it’s safe.

How often do you climb? Normally, I climb about three days a week.

How often do you think about climbing? I guess I think about climbing at least once a day, probably a lot more.

MEGAN DEMPSEY

Age: 25

Occupation: Engineer

How long have you been climbing? One year indoors plus two years outdoors

What are your favorite places to climb? The Fins (Idaho), City of Rocks (Idaho), Maple Canyon (Utah). I haven’t been climbing very long, so I have a lot more places on my wish list than on my favorites list.

What got you started climbing? I don’t even remember my first time climbing except that it was at the University of Idaho gym. I just remember that after the first time I went climbing, I was hooked and started going all the time and joined the school climbing team.

What motivates you? I love that climbing is like a puzzle but with your body. I love the combination of mental and physical strength that it takes to get up the wall. When I climb I prefer to lead, because I like to be a little scared.

Worst injury: I tweaked my back once when I was in college, but nothing more major than that.

What other things do you like to do? Hike, play soccer, run, read, bake.

What would be your dream rock climbing trip? There are a lot of places in the U.S. that I haven’t been to but I would really like to spend some time in Europe climbing and maybe even live over there for a while.

Advice you would give someone starting out in rock climbing? Climbing vertical rocks is not a natural thing. It is completely OK to be scared and feel intimidated. Also, don’t worry about being “the worst climber at the crag.” Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s all about self-improvement, not competition with your friends. Most of all, be safe! Climbing is a very safe sport if done right.

How often do you climb? I climb two to four days a week.

How often do you think about climbing? And I think about climbing at least every day, several times a day.

PAUL SCOTT

Age: 44

Occupation: Engineer

How long have you been climbing? About eight years

What are your favorite places to climb? Fins (Idaho), Wild Iris (Wyoming), City of Rocks (Idaho), Indian Creek (Utah), Vedauwoo (Wyoming).

What got you started climbing? A friend was really desperate for a belay slave and took me climbing.

What motivates you? Climbing a hard route and overcoming the doubt.

Worst injury? A shoulder injury that took about a year to fully heal.

What other things do you like to do? Ice climb, ski, whitewater kayaking, canyoneering.

What would be your dream rock climbing trip? One that doesn’t end. It would be amazing to travel the world going from one climbing destination to the next to experience as many as possible.

Advice you would give someone starting out in climbing? Find a good group of climbers and have fun.

How often do you climb? Including gym time, about three times per week.

How often do you think about climbing? I doubt that there are many hours that go by that I don’t think about climbing at least once.

COZETH SYKES

Age: 35 going on 19

Occupation: Maintenance monkey, aka repairer of machines large and small.

How long have you been climbing? Consistently, about 5 years.

What are your favorite places to climb? The Tetons (Wyoming), Midget Widget (Idaho), Sinks Canyon (Wyoming) and Zion (Utah).

What got you started climbing? Got a chance to ice climb in crevasses on a trip to Iceland and fell in love with that. Determined that I better get good at regular climbing if I was going to get to the ice.

What motivates you? Facing fears. Fun that involves challenge.

Worst injury? From climbing: A2 pulley finger injuries. Unrelated: Herniated discs in my back.

What other things do you like to do? Camp as much as possible. Read and make music. Hike uphill. Dance.

What would be your dream rock climbing trip? Something where there is a strenuous day of hiking to get to some obscure, rarely climbed rock that looks pretty good and then multiple pitches of moderate traditional climbing that hopefully leads to a summit. Maybe it is a tower or a spire, those are rad.

Advice you would give someone starting out in climbing? Trust your feet. Feel comfortable calling out your belayer or the people you climb with in regards to safety issues. The person having the most fun and sharing the joy with others wins.

How often do you climb? Three times a week minimum

How often do you think about climbing? Pretty much constantly.

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