Girl on the wall

Will Shepard, Cub Reporter

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Nola Parnes dropped off the wall as time expired. A loud buzzer went off overhead – the only thing concealing her from her disappointment. She was able to climb two of the six challenge routes in this competition. To qualify she needed at least three. She could have set the bar with this climb, advancing far beyond what her competitors thought.

“It was really disappointing not to make it through, you know. You are there four-five times a week and so to not make it, it really hurts,” Parnes said, recounting how she felt after falling from the wall.

Nola Parnes stands at just over four-foot-seven inches, not ideal if your a rock climber on one of the highest ranking teams in the country, but she makes it work.

“I’m forced to think of other ways to accomplish routes,” Parnes said. “I’m constantly being forced to think outside of the box and to find a new angle to problems, just because of my height.”

“But tomorrow, You’ve got to get right back at it, it’s the only way you get better.” Parnes stated again.

“It just sucks to see her work that hard, work that passionately and not get what I think she deserved,” said her friend Cassia Tackett, “plus she’s always trying to break that stereotype,”

“I’m forced to think of other ways to accomplish routes,” Parnes said. “I’m constantly being forced to think outside of the box and to find a new angle to problems, just because of my height.”

Parnes discovered and entered rock climbing through trial and error.

“I tried gymnastics, but then I got injured, then I tried soccer… and I got injured again. Sufficient to say my parents weren’t thrilled when I took up rock climbing,” Parnes said “But once they realized I could hold my own they became pretty big supporters.”

Rock climbing is difficult enough, and this is without competing at large scale tournaments for faster and faster times. Serious members can expect to work up on the walls for up to four hours a day, scaling holds only with their hands, known as campusing, or being asked to scale unknown routes they have never seen before in under four minutes.

“It’s not only physically grueling but mentally grueling as well,” Parnes said. “Your practicing with the same people, you see the same people day after day, so connections are formed through that.”

Parnes said that rock climbing has acted as a makeshift second family for her, just as they often are for groups of kids in any other sport. “They help me with my homework, drama among my friends, boys,” she said laughing. “You try spending 20 hours a week with the same people, friendships form, you start telling these people almost everything.”

Yet through that sense of community, this team, the Vertical World Climbing Team is even more perhaps known for their wins.

“There’s one competition,” Parnes says laughing again, “that my team has won 17 years in a row. This competition has only been there for 17 years. So yeah, the bar is pretty high.”

But Parnes pointed out that some teams are quick to dismiss her as an actual contender, and that she feels she has to do more to gain their respect. “Every time I go out there I can hear the cracks about my height in the background, at this point honestly I’m used to it,” Parnes said. “But at this point I don’t mind, I like to surprise people.”

“She plays with a chip on her shoulder,” one of her teammates Ben commented about her. “As our coach once said; never count out the shorty.”

Parnes subscribes to the formula of climbing solo up on the wall – how everything rests upon her shoulders.

“You can practice all you want,” Parnes said, “but once your up their,” she said pausing, “It’s up to you, it’s about how you perform and no one else.”

And so even though she is disappointed in this year’s results, Nola Parnes pushes on, knowing what she can accomplish.

“Here comes ropes season,” she said with a smile.

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