Local girl climbing to new heights

Victoria Gezel scales a rock face last summer in Bishop, Calif. A year after taking up rock climbing, the Greenleaf Elementary second-grader trains six days a week and has found success in USA Climbing competitions. (Photo submitted)

Victoria Gezel scales a rock face last summer in Bishop, Calif. A year after taking up rock climbing, the Greenleaf Elementary second-grader trains six days a week and has found success in USA Climbing competitions. (Photo submitted)

Eight-year-old rock climber has Olympic goal

When school lets out for the day at Greenleaf Elementary in Apple Valley, second-grader Victoria Gezel is headed for the climbing wall.

A little more than a year after taking up rock climbing, the 8-year-old has developed a passion for the sport that has her training six days a week at St. Paul’s Vertical Endeavors indoor climbing center, and entering local and regional competitions.

Last weekend, the dexterous youngster traveled to Indianapolis to compete in USA Climbing’s bouldering series, which sees climbers scaling walls without the aid of ropes. Gezel is now ranked No. 2 in the Midwest in the 10-and-under age group, and 36th in the nation.

She first got interested in climbing after her brother Brandon, a student at Hamline University in St. Paul, began entering climbing competitions and the family became members at Vertical Endeavors. Her love of the sport has filtered into life at home, as one of her favorite pastimes now is watching videos of professional climbers to help hone her technique.

“It’s not cartoons for her – it’s climbing videos,” said her mom, Amy Gezel.

And for her birthday last November, she asked for a gift that fed into her yen for climbing: a crash pad, the safety mat used when scaling rock faces without a rope.

Victoria Gezel

Victoria Gezel

In the warmer months, Gezel has logged climbing trips in Minnesota to Taylors Falls, Sandstone, and Sawmill Creek Dome near Duluth. And last summer saw her free-climbing rock faces in Bishop, Calif., and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Her ultimate goal, she said, is a berth in the 2020 Olympics. It’s a dream that hinges on more than just her talents as a climber; rock climbing is being considered for inclusion in the Olympics but is not yet a medaled competition at the international games.

In the meantime, Gezel is looking ahead to more climbing expeditions. Over spring break she’ll be heading to Arkansas to climb at a private ranch, and someday she hopes to go climbing in Spain.

To help bankroll the climbing adventures she plans to take, Gezel has started a hobby business, making jewelry and T-shirts which she sells to friends and neighbors.

“You don’t really earn that much money from chores,” she said.

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