Frequently Asked Questions

Here you’ll find frequently asked questions about everything we do. Click on a button below to get taken to the corresponding FAQ section.

General Information

What is Defying Gravity?

Defying Gravity is a 501c3 non­profit organization established to support youth climbing in western Montana. We run the day to day operations of the Gnar Pirates.

Does Defying Gravity have a website?
Do Defying Gravity board members get paid?

All board members are volunteers and do not get paid.

What are the Gnar Pirates?

The nickname of The Missoula Climbing Team.  Our athletes compete throughout the northwest from August through June. They compete as part of the USA Climbing Bouldering and Sport climbing disciplines.

How does my child join the Missoula Climbing Team?

Just ask! Our minimum age is eight at the start of the current competitive season.  (September or February). Our coaches have developed guidelines to ensure your child is adequately prepared for the upcoming competition season. In some instances, your child may need to climb in a Freestone youth program for several months prior to joining the team. This is done to ensure your child is prepared for the training and practice routines required of team members.

My child is/has been in one of Freestone's youth programs. Can we join the team?

Defying Gravity has developed the following guidelines that must be met prior to your child joining the team. We also insist that you honor your financial commitment to Freestone’s youth program prior to joining the Missoula Climbing Team.

New Team Member Requirements

How much does it cost to join the team?


Fall 2017 rates are $550.00 for four months.

Our spring 2018 rate will be equivalent to the fall 2017 rate plus an addition fee, to be determined, to cover our anticipated increase in membership fees paid to Freestone Climbing.  The final amount will be avaliable no later than the week of January 15, 2018.

What do my team fees cover?

Your team fees cover the coaches practice salary, USA Climbing coach registartion fee, a four month membership to Freestone Climbing, registration in our local bouldering competition (Missoula, fall only) and the coaches salary and travel expenses incurred at competitions. Defying Gravity retains 10%-15% based on participation of your fees to cover operational costs.

When are the local competitive seasons?

The bouldering season is September through December. The sport climbing season is February through April.

When are the regional, divisional and national comps held?

For bouldering, the championship competitions are held in December, January and February. For sport climbing the championship comps are held in May, June and July.

What is the time commitment to be a member of the Missoula Climbing Team?

The Gnar Pirate team is a minimum four month time commitment.

When does the team begin and when are the practice dates and times?

Fall team begins on September 5, 2017.   Spring team begins on February 1, 2018.  We are currently awaiting approval of our requested pratice days and times for the spring sport climbing season from Freestone Climbing.

We have a scheduling conflict with our child's practice time, can we switch?

We understand that families are busy during the school year and that this may occur. Each team size will be limited to a specific number of kids to allow our coaches to maximize their effort and time with each team Additionally we are bound by our agreement with Freestone climbing to ensure our practices are run in a professional and courteous fashion. If we are able to accommodate a change within this framework then we will do so. Changes in practice times need to be approved by the head coach and are first come first serve.

We have a scheduling conflict on one of the practice nights. Can my child still be on the team and is our fee adjusted?

Yes your child can still be on the team. We do not offer a reduced payment plan. The training routines are developed by the coaches and as such changes to the training schedule for one child are not easy to manipulate. We strive to accommodate all children but our goal is to develop strong relationships among our team members. If you can only make one practice per week then our suggestion would be to enroll in an after school program with Freestone Climbing. Their schedule is more loosely structured and your child will still get the benefit of learning and developing as a climber and the cost will be less for you.

Does Defying Gravity help pay for comp and travel fees for my child?

Currently we are unable to guarantee travel reimbursement for our athletes. We are a relatively new non­profit and as such do not have the financial resources available to cover team travel. We will try to accommodate any athlete who needs assistance as much as we are able too.

What is USA Climbing?

USA Climbing is the national governing body of competition climbing in the United States. They promote three competition disciplines: bouldering, sport and speed climbing. USA Climbing receives sanctioning and is recognized by: The International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC – formerly known as the International Council for Competition Climbing or the ICC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).



How much does it cost to become a member of USA Climbing?

$95 annually for youth competitor for both seasons (Sept. 1, 2016 – August 31, 2017). Available through <a href=”” target=”_blank”>USA Climbing.</a>

Does my child have to be a member of USA Climbing to compete on the Missoula Climbing Team?

If your child wants to compete beyond the local competition level then they will have to register with USA Climbing. If you choose not to become a member, you will be charged a $10 fee, in addition to the registration fee at local comps. This fee is a “day use fee” that the gym will charge because they are in turn charged that same amount for any non-members who compete in a USA Climbing sanctioned event.

Local Competition Information

What is a local competition?

Local competitions (synonym: comps, locals) are the basic level of the youth competition climbing season. Locals are held throughout the autumn and spring of each year. They are held nation wide by host gyms and serve as the basic platform for advancement into the Regional, Divisional and National competitions.

What happens at a local comp?

During a local comp the host gym, depending upon size, will set 40-100 bouldering routes or 30-40 sport climbing routes of varying degrees of difficulty. The problems are numbered 1-40 (in the example of a bouldering comp with 40 problems) with problem #1 being the easiest and problem #40 being the most difficult. The points increase by 100 with each subsequent level of difficulty. Problem #1 is worth 100 points, problem #2 is worth 200 and so forth. The day of the competition, the competitors will have three to four hours (varies from gym to gym) to climb as many routes as she/he chooses. The competitor will receive the assigned point value upon successful completion of the problem. After the assigned climbing time has ended the scores are tallied and placements are announced and ribbons received.

How are scores calculated?

Upon completion of a problem the judge will record the score and their initials on the competitors score card and discuss any details about the score that are relevant with the competitor. A competitor’s final score is the combined total of her/his top five highest scored routes. Ties are broken by the number of attempts.

How does my child know which routes to climb?

This is on the advice and support of the coach. Your coach will know your child’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses as well as motivations for competing. The coaches will guide your child through the climbing process starting with a proper warm up, then developing route strategy to ensure a solid score, as well as suggest routes which may be harder than your child is used to. In this way the child competes, grows and learns in a positive manner. While the coach will provide this information, they cannot be everywhere at once. It is under these circumstances that the older kids on the team take on the role of mentor to the younger team members. Locals can be long and tiring, and developing a proper mental and physical approach and strategy is crucial for success. Many of the older kids have over 40 competitions to their credit and are often times the best source of advice or beta.

What is beta?

Beta is a term, which refers to specific information about a problem. During the competition kids will give advice on how to climb a specific route or learn that information by watching other kids climb the same route. This is beta. It is important to understand however that during the initial attempt on a problem, giving beta is strictly forbidden as it could influence the final score.

What is the cost/time commitment of a local comp?

Registration in a local comp generally cost $40-$50. While not universal this often times includes a competition t-shirt and some form of food and/or beverage. The time commitment is generally ¾day-full day depending on start times, awards and raffles. Some gyms host a barbecue after the comp.

What region do we compete in and can my child only compete in locals within my region?

Montana is in Region 301-Mountain West. Region 301 also includes, ID, WY UT and western CO. The regional boundaries can be found HERE.
Your child can compete at any local competition within the United States regardless of what home region she/he is registered in.

Where do I find the schedule for local comps?

On the web, go to USA Climbing and click on our region, 301-Mountain West. We will also be posting all of the local comp information our web page and it can be found by clicking HERE.

What are Regional and Divisional competitions?

Regional and Divisional comps are the next two stages of advancement from a local competition.

How do you qualify for these competitions?

If your child has competed in a minimum of two local competitions as a USA Climbing member she/he can compete in the regional competition. If your child’s score places in the top ten at the regional comp you are invited to the divisional comp.

Where are the Regional competitions held?

The Regional competition is held at a host gym within our region. The gyms are chosen based on a rotation. Any competitor within the region that has qualified can register. If your child chooses to register in the regional comp she/he will be competing within her/his respective age and gender category against competitors from MT, ID, WY, UT and western CO.

What is our region and division?

Our region is Region #301-Mountain West. Our division is Division 3 and is comprised of two regions, ours and Region #302-Front Range. The regional alignment map can be found HERE

How does a Regional/Divisional comp differ from a local competition?

In the Regional/Divisional competition the competitors will be assigned a climbing time within their respective category. They will be placed into isolation with the other competitors within their group and be escorted to the problems to be climbed. The competitor will have 2-4 minutes to climb the assigned problem. The competitor may try the problem as many times as she/he desires within that 2-4 minutes. Once time is up the competitor will be escorted to the next problem and allowed a 2-4 minute rest period. This continues until the competitor has attempted all of the assigned routes.

How many routes or problems will my child climb at a Regional or Divisional competition?

USA Climbing Rule 5.11.2 reads as follows:

For single round Bouldering competitions, six (6) problems. For multiple round Bouldering competitions, the number of problems per round shall be as follows:

  • For each round of competition, there shall be a minimum of three (3) routes but no more than five (5).
  • For single round Sport competitions, there shall only be three (3) routes. For multiple round Sport competitions, the number of routes per round shall be as follows:
    • a. Qualification round – there shall be a minimum of two (2) routes but no more than three (3).
    • b. Semi-Final round – there may only be one (1) route.
    • c. Final round – there may only be one (1) route.
What is isolation?

At a Regional, Divisional and National competition the athletes are kept in isolation (synonym: ISO) prior to climbing. This is done to ensure no competitor has an unfair advantage in previewing the problems prior to competing. ISO is generally in another portion of the gym separated from the routes. In some cases it can be in a different location (across the street). In such a case the host facility provides all transportation to and from the ISO to gym

What can my child expect in isolation?

Potentially, lots of down time. An athlete can be in isolation for as little as 45 minutes or as long as 4 hours. There are plenty of routes to warm up and prepare on prior to climbing.

What can my child bring into isolation? Can I be in there with them?

The athletes can bring their climbing specific needs, i.e. shoes, chalk bag, clothes etc. Food, water, reading materials, games, drawing supplies etc. They may not bring in electronics (iPODS) or phones. Only USA Climbing registered coaches are allowed to be in isolation with the athletes. If your child competes in a regional, divisional or national competition she/he will be in isolation with one of our coaches the entire time she/he is ISO.

What should I expect when I get to the gym with my child at a regional/divisional competition?

The group your child competes in will be placed in a morning, mid-day or afternoon climbing session. They will not be allowed to enter the gym until their sessions check in time. The athletes are allowed a one-hour window to check into ISO. Once the check in time has past they will not be allowed to check in or to climb. Upon arriving your child will check in with the ISO coordinator. They will be asked to surrender any electronics and then be escorted into ISO. Their coach will either be with them through this process or will already be waiting for them in ISO.

How much does a Regional competition cost?

Registration for a regional comp is $100-$125.

How do I register for Regional, Divisional and National competitions?

Registration for the Regional, Divisional and National Championships is conducted online at USA Climbing. All competitors must register directly with USAC as part of the eligibility requirement for all Championship Events. Additionally, competitors must meet any and all registration guidelines and/or deadlines, which are posted online. Failure to do so will result in loss of eligibility.