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Boulders, Damn!


Those Tae-Bo pants barely get a workout anymore. Same goes for the spinning culottes and the Thighmaster jodhpurs. It's not that the desire to be healthy and active has faded; it's just tiring keeping up with the latest celebrity health fads. That Carmen Electra Fit to Strip video was the straw that officially broke the camel toe. None of the roommates were pleased with that decision, and now the shirts-vs.-skins Texas Hold 'Em Night has been postponed until further notice.

But that doesn't matter, because the perfect sport has been rediscovered: bouldering. The competitive strain of rock-climbing, bouldering is one of the oldest, non-celebrity-endorsed, total-body workouts out there. That Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger was as close as rock-climbing came to having a famous patron, but the movie's lameness ensured that rock-climbing wouldn't be mainstreamed.

And that's because rock-climbing is a deeply personal experience. It's you and the course, with nothing else to help you. In bouldering everyone is faced with the same obstacle (a vertical, man-made course of hand- and foot-holds) and the same goal (climb it). But how you solve the problem of ascent is up to you. Quick decisions and self-trust play as much, if not more, of a role as strong hands and limberness. Mental acuity knows no age, and so a teenager can climb a better route than a stud in his mid-thirties, and a woman in her fifties can out-climb them both. But really, it's not about competition between people: It's about you versus yourself — and that means as long as you're doing it, you're winning.

But maybe a little competition between people isn't such a bad thing, either. The Upper Limits Rock Climbing Gym (326 South 21st Street; 314-241-7625 or hosts the fifth annual Gateway Bouldering Bash today from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the best climbers in the area test themselves in the American Bouldering Series-sanctioned competition. The Bouldering Bash is a Redpoint-format climb with a three-hour time limit, and your top five scores determine the overall winner. Which is pretty technical information for non-climbers, but you can visit for a full explanation of the rules. The Bash is intended just for climbers, however, and spectators are limited to immediate family and coaches (and have a $2 admission fee). February is Bring-a-Friend Month at Upper Limits, though, so if you're a novice and interested in rock-climbing, you can go with a friend between Saturday, February 11, and Tuesday, February 14, and receive a half-price daily pass with each full admission. Otherwise, show up this morning, pony up the $30-to-$35 admission fee, and try your hand in the recreational division.
Feb. 11-14

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