On The Rocks

Giving up is simply not an option for La Antigua Guatemala’s Rock Climbing Club. Despite more than 18 months without receiving allotted funds, the club still climbs on. Before January 2008, the government largely supported the Climbing Association of Sacatepéquez (AANSAC). Now, club leader Felipe Álvarez says although the government’s Climbing Foundation is still responsible for supporting climbing clubs, these clubs are not receiving any funding. “Unfortunately, we haven’t competed at the national level since the beginning of 2008. We haven’t competed for more than a year and a half because the Climbing Foundation is no longer providing funds. Neither is it organizing any activities.”

Guatemala had developed an esteemed national selection of climbing talent. In 15 years, AANSAC members placed in 24 national competitions, in 22 of which they won First Place. AANSAC also placed First in three of 12 international competitions

Despite lack of funding and event support, the local culture for climbing can not be denied. The AANSAC possesses a strong, close-knit group of members who demonstrate that even if the national selection has officially disappeared, the local climbing culture has not.

“I really like to compete and I want to continue competing at an international level throughout Central and South America,” AANSAC member David Galindo says. “Things are stagnant here in Guatemala in climbing, but we hope that everything can be fixed. But if not, we continue to climb for our own pleasure and we still go to compete in other countries.” Galindo started climbing about 10 years ago and has participated in close to 60 competitions thus far in his career. He explains that all of his training and competitive opportunities are provided through AANSAC. The training has certainly served him well. The young 22-year-old Antigueño can race up the club’s homemade climbing wall with impressive agility.

The very nature of the climbing is a critical part of why AANSAC members feel so compelled to help their club and their sport thrive. “From the first run I felt addicted to the sport,” 14-year-old member Gabriela Márquez Rodenas explains. “You feel excited and you climb up the wall and you want to just keep going and going. Then you come down and you want another go and another go and you don’t get tired.”

The commitment to helping amateurs and seasoned competitors further develop their climbing skills is why Álvarez drives from Guatemala City three times a week to offer classes, despite lack of government funding. “We continue giving classes thanks to the support of all the members and all of the people that come. We buy materials when we can. Each rope costs about $200 and through all of the students and all of the people that come we have bought four ropes.”

For Q20 a month, members and non-members can use the club’s wall and equipment, including climbing shoes, harnesses and chalk. This is how Álvarez says he helps preserve the local climbing culture.

photos courtesy of AANSAC

Climbing enthusiasts are welcome to practice at the gym located on the Calle de Manchén in La Antigua Guatemala on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Q20/month. For more information visit www.aansac.com.

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