Climbers reach new heights at Kato Krusher

All weekend long, blaring music, whirring drills, and beeping lifts created an industrious hum of activity in Myers Field House. Rainbow piles of resin climbing holds covered the floor. Mystified passers-by found discarded fragments of colored tape stuck to their shoes after they walked through the building. Chalk dust swirled through the air.

For most people, MNSU’s annual Kato Krusher climbing competition began Sunday morning, Nov. 13 with registration at 9 a.m. However, for the many staff members and climbing enthusiasts who volunteered, preparation for the Krusher began at 10 p.m. on Thursday night after open climbing hours.

Armed with wrenches and drills, they ascended the wall and worked their way down, unscrewing holds and ripping off colored tape used to label routes. After only an hour and a half, they had stripped the wall completely nude.

After the volunteers left, a few of the Adventure Education Program staff and the head-route setters stayed until nearly 2:30 a.m., so they could get a head start on creating new routes for the competition.

Climbing routes are graded with the Yosemite Decimal System, from 5.0, the easiest, to 5.15, the hardest. The MNSU wall sets routes in the 5.5-5.13 range, and for the competition, the staff needed to ensure they had a variety of grades for all participant abilities.

“I try to focus on the fine details to make sure everything is right, like the tape is the right length…and the naturals are clearly marked,” said head route-setter David Franke. He believes that attention to detail is one of the most important qualities for a head setter.

There are a lot of details that need attention during a climbing competition. All routes must be labeled correctly and obviously. All the holds need to be screwed tightly to the wall so they do not spin under a participant’s hand, causing them to lose their grip. Each move on each route must be analyzed to ensure it fits the route’s grade and keeps competition fair.

On Friday, the staff and volunteers began in the morning and worked until around 9 p.m. setting routes and forerunning. Saturday was the main forerunning day, which started early and continued until about 8 p.m.

Forerunning is a test run of each route. The setters tried to ensure that at least three people climbed each route and left feedback so that they could gather different perspectives on it and make sure they had graded it properly. They tweaked several routes over and over until they reached perfection. The staff had the wall prepared for the next morning by around 8 p.m. Considering past competitions, escaping the wall this early is unusual.

“Now that we have the system down, we know what needs to be done and we can just do it,” said Franke.

Even though the staff was battling exhaustion on competition day, they were still enthused about the crowd who showed up to try their new routes. Kato Krusher participants came from the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University, Lakeville, the Midwest Climbing Academy, the Mankato community, and MNSU’s own student body.

“[The Krusher] is a lot of work, but watching people climb and get stoked about climbing makes it worth it,” said Franke, as he observed the intermediate division and lounged for possibly the first time all weekend.

Thanks to a lot of caffeine, Little Caesar’s pizza, and, most of all, a resilient enthusiasm for climbing, MNSU has another successful Kato Krusher for the books.

The MNSU climbing wall is located in Myers Field House and is open to the public Sunday through Thursday evenings from 6-10 p.m. Students can climb and rent equipment for free and a community member can purchase a day pass for $12, or save money by purchasing a one, four, eight, or 12 month pass. Official hours and pricing can be found on the MNSU Campus Recreation website: If you’re a new climber, don’t be afraid to show up, learn the ropes, and begin training for next year’s Kato Krusher.


Men’s Open
1st – Liam Tyler
2nd – Nick Gagliardi
3rd – Will Strei

Men’s Advanced
1st – Bennet Eisenbeisz
2nd – Matthew Hoffman
3rd – Justin Smith

Men’s Intermediate
1st – Matthew Barton
2nd – Nick Mahoward
3rd – Griffin Garrity

Men’s Beginner
1st – John Wendler
2nd – Cael Ceurvorst

Women’s Open
1st – Meleah Schoenbauer
2nd – Isabelle Shoemaker

Women’s Advanced
1st – Mary Bjorklund
2nd – Mei Bryn Swanson
3rd – Bria Halstrom

Women’s Intermediate
1st – Kaitlyn Whalen
2nd – Mariah Schwecke
3rd – Natalie Vorel

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