Ascending in his chosen sport:
Lafayette's Connor Everton takes climbing gold, bronze medals in Chile
By Lou Fancher, Correspondent, Contra Costa Times
CONCORD -- Like a real life spiderman, Connor Everton stretches his lanky 5-foot-10-inch, 147-pound frame up vertical surfaces and across boulder-filled terrains. He's not in hot pursuit of criminals, but nevertheless, he is blazing.
At Concord's Diablo Rock Gym, he's fast becoming a climbing legend. At November's PanAmerican Youth Championship in Santiago, Chile, the 16-year old Acalanes High School junior landed the gold medal for the "Male Youth A Lead" event and the bronze medal for overall champion in the Youth A division.
Two weeks later, he snared first place in the ABS 14 Regional Championships in Fremont. In his weight division, he holds the world record for his 296-pound Apollons Axle dead lift.
And it all started with a camping trip.
"The first time I climbed was when my dad and I stopped at a gym on our way home from camping when I was 6," he recalls.
Seated in the modest Lafayette home he shares with his mother Debbie, father Mark and four siblings, Everton is economical.
Why does he climb?
"It just clicked."
Is there anything he likes as much as climbing?
Would he climb if there were no medals, no competitions, no glory?
Hans Florine, who holds the 2:23:46 Speed Climbing world record with Alex Honnold for mounting Yosemite's El Capitan, is equally thrifty with words.
Everton is "Well mannered, considerate," says Florine, who manages the Diablo Rock Gym where Everton trains. "I've seen him go from not climbing as well as me to outclimbing me."
Climbs are rated according to their difficulty with a system that breaks them into classes and grades. Class 1 is walking on a trail. By the time you get to Class 5, you're talking technical action involving small holds and substantial strength.
Everton is a Class 5.13, a category reserved for those who climb upside down on glass or along vertical surfaces with indiscernible holds.
His mother has tried getting on the wall and is astounded at the difficulty. Watching her son compete, her hands sweat.
"When I know that he can fall and smash into a wall, I'm scared," she confesses. "But it's in his blood. I trust his coaches, his great equipment."
Everton climbs with Zero Gravity, a team led by Scot Jenerik.
"We do four hours, five days a week," Everton says. "We don't use free weights much, because you get body mass instead of the technique to use your strength."
Sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups in massive quantities, plus an ability to "dig in harder than the average person and push myself," give Everton an edge. Remembering to breathe is the hardest technical skill, although using his core to pull with his feet and keeping them on the wall is something he drills for efficiency..
Bouldering is his preferred climbing activity. Rope-less, heavy on precision and hand-strength to weight ratios, Everton is addicted to the powerful, weightless sensation it provides. On the wall, he's rarely afraid.
"You have to think, not just of the move you are doing, but the one you'll do after the one you are on. You key the sequence: you're thinking how good the holds are, the fatigue in your forearms, where your last clip was, breathing."
In Chile, the climbing style was European, with two-finger holds requiring a methodical, slow pace compared to America, where he says climbs are dynamic, with full-finger pockets making easy-to-read holds.
Everton was surprised by the policemen he saw on every Santiago street corner -- "everybody steals," he was told -- and came home from his first trip out of the U.S. with only one disappointment.
"No burritos!" he protests. "Only Americanized burgers and hot dogs!"
Next up are Divisionals in January, Nationals in March and the World competition in August. Then, there's the dream of Africa and its vast boulder fields of volcanic rock with world class climbing.