Hampton sophomore reaching new heights in competitive climbing

Saturday, January 28, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Hampton’s Pax Carslaw is starting to get a grip on competitive climbing.

The 15-year-old sophomore was tied for No. 1 in his age group in the final 2022 USA Climbing Youth Boulder Region 62 rankings and is preparing to compete at the Division 6 championships Feb. 11-12 in Chicago.

Carslaw secured his invitation in the Male Youth A age group (15-16 year olds) by placing fourth among 23 climbers at regionals Jan. 14 at Ascend Climbing in Pittsburgh.

The next summit to scale for Carslaw is divisionals, where the top six finishers will advance to the national championships.

“Going into (regionals), I felt really strong,” Carslaw said. “The way I climbed didn’t project how strong I felt and how much I’ve been training. Fourth got the job done, but I think I definitely could have done a lot better.”

Carslaw wasn’t the only Hampton teen to compete at regionals. Jayce Allen and Peleh Shaltes placed 14th and 15th in Male Youth B age group (13-14 year-olds) in the region, which covers Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and northern Indiana. The two Hampton boys barely missed qualifying for Chicago. The top 13 advanced to divisionals.

Carslaw, who trains out of Iron City Boulder in Lawrenceville, is a former gymnast — his grandmother Elaine Jewart runs Jewart’s Gymnastics in Hampton — and was a PIAA-qualifying diver as a freshman last season for Hampton’s two-time defending WPIAL Class 2A champion boys swimming and diving team. Carslaw, who placed seventh in the WPIAL, stepped away from diving this season to concentrate on climbing.

“It was getting in the way of climbing,” he said, “and I thought it would be better.”

Carslaw, who began climbing competitively about five years ago, trains four times a week for about 2 1/2 hours each practice. The 5-foot-10, 140-pounder scored the maximum 2,000 points in his USA Climbing Youth Boulder Qualification Series events. Only one other Region 62 Male Youth A climber — Gavin Thomas of Michigan — and fewer than 20 nationwide entered their respective regionals with a perfect qualifying score.

“He’s a very dynamic climber, big and flowy,” said Ben Summay, who coaches Carslaw at Iron City Boulder. “He has very good body awareness and body movement.

“There’s climbers who have lots of upper-body strength. There’s climbers who have lots of finger strength. There’s climbers who are very creative and can work with what they have to find a solution.

“But I think one of the best qualities to have in a climber is a general passion, bordering on obsession. Someone who wants to be there all the time, trying to improve. I think that is something Pax is very good at.”

The sport of climbing involves scaling an artificial wall with grips for hands and feet that simulate a rocky surface. During a competition, Carslaw climbs a route on a rock face, getting points at the midway zone and again at the top, if me makes it. He does four climbs and is allocated a maximum of four minutes for each ascent.

“As a whole, I’m just getting stronger,” he said. “A lot of holds that I wouldn’t be able to hold are feeling a lot easier and I’m growing a lot. It feels good.”

Carslaw competes in the bouldering discipline, which is done without ropes. The climbing wall is surrounded by padding to soften the inevitable misgrips.

“Falling,” Carslaw said, “is a very big part of climbing.”

Carslaw is eyeing his third trip to nationals. He advanced in 2018 as a 10-year-old, taking 39th, and in 2020 at age 12, finishing 31st.

Standing in his way this year at the Division 6 championships are climbers from 12 states spanning from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.

“The main goal is getting to nationals and doing as good as I can,” Carslaw said. “That’s the one and only goal that I have right now.”


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