BY MAT CLOUSER
PITTSFORD — Ten years of training probably sounds like a long time for most. For 15-year-old Patrick Daly of Pittsford, it’s practically a lifetime. And yet, that’s how long he’s been involved with climbing—competing for eight of those years—a solid career for almost any athlete.
Daly says his mother, Margaret, is also a climber and that he was first introduced to the sport when his older brother Michael—a former competitor who climbed in the Collegiate Nationals last spring and served as the climbing team coach at UVM for the past two years—started climbing at the Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center (GMRCC) in Rutland.
It should be no surprise that he’d do well in the sport, but how well is something else altogether. After a string of successes at local and regional bouldering competitions, Daly brought home a ninth-place finish (out of 57 competitors) in the Youth Male A bouldering division at the USA Youth Climbing National Championships in Chicago on July 25.
Bouldering is a form of free climbing done with only hand chalk and climbing shoes on smaller rock formations or on artificial climbing surfaces that typically top out around 20 feet high, and are done without the use of ropes and harnesses, something that Daly says he’s done for such a long time because lead climbing—a traditional form of climbing on a much higher rock face that’s done with ropes, harnesses, and belay—was intimidating. “The last couple of years, I’ve been lead climbing more and plan on competing in it next year,” said Daly.
Daly, who is on the climbing team at Metrorock Essex Junction and competes in no other forms of athletics, has been attending high school online through the International Virtual Learning Academy (IVLA) in part so that he could have more flexibility to train—training which he does at a climbing wall in a shed at home to supplement the times when Metrorock isn’t holding practices.
According to Margaret, the process of being selected for the National Championships is long. Climbers must first compete at one or two local qualifiers. They are ranked based on how well they do there, with the top 26 climbers eligible to move on to regional competitions held throughout the country. There are two regions in each of the nine national divisions; the top 10 regional finishers from each division proceed to one of the nine Divisional Championships, where only the top six advance to Nationals. Making it to Nationals is a massive achievement in itself.
Daly says his favorite part of climbing is the process of projecting—a process where climbers spend days, weeks, months, or even years working on climbs that are at or beyond their physical limits. He also says this can present challenges. “I’ve experienced a loss of motivation and plateaus in which I couldn’t seem to progress,” he said. “And multiple finger injuries.”
When asked if he experienced any fear when climbing, Daly didn’t hesitate to answer, saying, “Yeah, definitely. I’m still afraid of falling while lead climbing sometimes.”
There aren’t many great outdoor climbing spots in the immediate area, said Daly, who lists Bolton, Smuggler’s Notch, and Lonerock among his favorite spots in Northern Vermont. Regardless of where people climb, however, Daly has some essential advice. “Rest after each attempt,” he said. “And also, use chalk.”
As for his future in climbing, which he calls “a great lifetime sport,” Daly said, “I don’t have any specific goals—just to improve as long as I enjoy the process.”