If you follow the American Alpine Club on Instagram (@americanalpine), you might get a weird sensation that you recognize the pictures that you see next week. There is a reason for that – if you have ever bouldered at PG Sunnyvale, you are probably familiar with where they were taken!
About a year ago, PG Sunnyvale was approached by member Andrea Laue about doing a series on our youth climbing team and we were more than happy to help out! Since then, Andrea has been collaborating with the coaches and climbers to learn more about these amazing athletes. Our teams are so passionate; we are stoked that people get a peek into how much work they put into it.
Starting January 8, Andrea (on Instagram as @andrealaue) will be taking over the American Alpine Club’s Instagram and showcasing her series on Youth Climbers, many of whom she worked with at PG Sunnyvale. The series will build a narrative around individual climbers and what it is like to be a competitive youth climber.
We asked Andrea a few questions about the project leading up to the takeover:
Can you give a little bit of background on yourself and this series?
I’m a documentary photographer by vocation and a climber, backpacker, snowshoer, and general outdoor enthusiast by avocation. Except for a brief stint in Seattle, I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area for 10+ years, and the Eastern Sierra feels like home to me. My husband Brian and I climb moderate alpine trad routes and backpack as much as possible. The Hulk is our big goal for 2017!
For this series: Put most simply, I wondered what it was like to be on a climbing team as a youth. Last year, I photographed several “open” comps at Bay Area gyms. The youth competitors impressed me most at those events. I was very active in youth team sports, and that experience had a big influence on me. Last winter, I approached Planet Granite’s Team about doing a documentary project about a season as a youth climber and the gym, athletes, and parents welcomed me into the community.
What are you hoping to show in your takeover for AAC?
There’s so much more to the comps than the climbs themselves. Athletes spend minutes to hours in isolation before they climb. Between climbs they are led around the gym with their backs to the walls and faces to the crowd. They sit, waiting their turn, while the spectators cheer and gasp in reaction to other performances. All the while, the clock runs, timing their efforts and their breaks. Then they are called. They turn toward the wall, and they climb on command.
It’s intense. It’s easy to see the strength in the limbs of these kids, but the core of their strength lies in their minds and in their hearts. It’s impressive.
What have you enjoyed most about your work in this series?
Getting to know the athletes. At first I was simply amazed by how good they are. Now I’m impressed by the conversations I have with them. I admire how they support one another, regardless of relative skill.
Also, they crack me up!
Photo Credit: Andrea Laue