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Dixie Rock celebrates 23rd year at the Chapel Hill Community Center

The Chapel Hill Community Center was filled this weekend with adults and children, hanging and stretching like spiders across brightly speckled climbing walls.

Dixie Rock 23 — the oldest annual indoor rock climbing competition in the country — drew a crowd of about 70 to the community center on Friday and Saturday for the 23rd year of the competition.

At the preliminary rounds on Friday night and Saturday morning, climbers moved from easy to more difficult routes, and scores were determined by the highest hold that they could reach.

The top five climbers in each division were invited back to the final round Saturday afternoon.

There were four different divisions based on age and skill level in the competition. Each wall had a different number of hand and foot holds, which reflected various degrees of difficulty according to their size and distance from one another.

Calvin Wagner, 15, was this year’s winner of the men’s open division, which had the highest difficulty level.

“It’s physically demanding, and you need to have good techniques and strengths,” said Wagner, who has participated in five Dixie Rock competitions.

“Since I was young, I liked climbing trees and cabins,” he said.

Medals were given to youth division winners, and adult winners received prizes including gift cards, a three-year pass to the climbing wall at the community center and climbing equipment, said competition coordinator Daniel Graubman.

To compete, Orange County residents paid a $35 fee and non-residents paid a $42 fee.

Throughout the year, residents and non-residents can climb at the center for as low as a $4 one-time fee, or they can purchase a year-long pass for $108 for residents and $240 for non-residents.

“As a cheaper government location to climb, we have attracted a more diverse community to climb here,” Scholle said.

“We got lots of people who wouldn’t have access to climbing in the competition.”

Dixie Rock 23 competitor and Carrboro resident Jasmina Nogo said rock climbing is a mental challenge as much as it is a physical challenge.

“Rock climbing is psychologically and physically stimulating,” she said.

Jason Phillippi, a UNC medical student, agreed.

“There’s a lot of puzzle solving in rock climbing,” he said. “And those puzzles get magically solved once you gain more experience.”

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