Some people go to the Renaissance Festival for the mutton; others for the jousting. But for recent Garrison Forest graduate Nicole Hansen, the Ren Fest was special because it was where she first tried to clamber up a climbing wall. She was 9 years old, and the festival had three walls: easy, medium, and hard. After zipping her way up the first two, Nicole readied herself for the difficult wall — only to be told by the guy running the show that she was too young, and it was too dangerous. “That kind of made me a little angry,” Nicole remembers. “So I decided to try rock climbing and get good at it.” “Good” is an understatement with Nicole. Last weekend, while many of her former Garrison Forest classmates were moving into their new college dorms and nervously checking their first-week schedules, Nicole was in Singapore, competing at the World Youth Sport Climbing Championship on behalf of Team USA.
Nicole has been a nationally ranked climber since 2004, which means she spends her spare time building up her strength and working on her reach so as to scale increasingly technical walls. (She trains at Earth Treks Climbing Center outside DC.) Her main focus is on difficulty climbing, which is exactly what it sounds like — doing the hardest climb possible, rather than focusing on speed. “It can be overhangs, it can be slab, where you’re kind of leaning into the wall, and it’s very very small holds… whereas the overhangs are definitely technique but also power,” Hansen explains.
By placing 5th in the sport climbing difficulty category in Climbing SCS’s national championships this summer, Nicole earned a coveted spot on the U.S. team that competed in Singapore over Labor Day weekend. And Hansen did her country (and Baltimore!) proud, coming in 36th (in the world!!), and scoring the 4th highest score of the American women. (The top 5 places went to Japan, Austria, and Korea.)
Now that the competition is over, Nicole heads to Colorado College where she’ll be a Trustee Scholar — and, presumably, scaling some of those intense Colorado peaks.
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