"Oh yeah, come on!" the crowd yells as a young, trim woman scales a climbing wall, grabbing onto neon moldings with fingers covered in white chalk dust and pulling herself higher and higher.
Muscles flex in her tanned back and her brown pony tail sways as she reaches, and reaches and ...
"Oh," the crowd cries, as she falls onto the soft, thick, blue mats below.
"You feel free when you're out there," says Nina Caprez, 21, who travelled from Switzerland to compete for $10,000 cash in the third annual Mammut Bouldering Championships series in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday evening. The event was held in conjunction with the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Trade Show in the Salt Palace Convention Center and the EnergySolutions Arena.
The bouldering competition, which ran Friday and Saturday, brought out about 2,000 spectators to watch 120 international athletes. During Saturday's event, outside the Shilo Inn in downtown Salt Lake, the top 15 men and women competed.
The crowd sipped on brew, threw a beach ball back and forth and jammed to high-energy tunes. Happy canines meandered through the crowd, receiving pats of affection.
If Patagonia had a smell, it was definitely in the air.
The climbers concentrated, flexed and showed their stuff. They contorted into different shapes as they attempted to ascend. They pushed off with their toes, swinging into a different higher groove.
Judging included whether the climber reached the top, how many tries it took them and the number of holds they used. There was a five-minute limit.
It was multi-entertainment with several walls reaching more than 20 feet high, topped with giant inflatable black woolly mammoths with white tusks to represent the sponsor: Mammut Sports Group USA, providers of Swiss quality alpine gear and apparel.
Most of the spectators were participating in the outdoor trade show. With a 4.8 percent growth over the 2007 summer show and 100 new exhibitors, the event proved that the $46 billion outdoor industry shows no signs of slowing despite the tough economy, according to Outdoor Retailer officials. For more information, go to www.outdoorretailer.com
Those watching the bouldering event expounded on the benefits of climbing, which include getting outdoors to exercise, gaining self-confidence and obtaining an achievable goal.
Climbing can also be calming for some people.
"I feel really good when I'm doing it. It gives me time to be with myself and get really centered and face my fears," said Tim Richards, 40, of Los Angeles, Calif. He has been climbing for more than 30 years.Comment on this story
Jason Carmichael, 25, of Palmer, Alaska, said, "I had a friend who wanted to take me climbing. So I did. And I fell in love with it." He has been climbing for 10 years.
Many advise beginners to start out in a climbing gym and get some instruction even join a climbing organization.
Summer Shumway, 31, of Sandy, says climbing can be a fun family event. She has gotten her husband and two children, ages 5 and 8, into it.
"It increases confidence in a good environment where you are competing with yourself," Shumway said.