The Real Gnarly Carly: Q & A with Club Climbing’s Carly Bonwell

Carly Bonwell is a sophomore on one of Colorado College’s newest club sports, the climbing team. The New Mexico native recently went to Houston with four other CC climbers to compete at the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championships.

Photo courtesy of Carly Bonwell

Ben Hall: You just got back from climbing at nationals, what was that experience like?

Carly Bonwell: It was a great experience, we had a lot of fun. It’s really cool just being in that atmosphere, seeing some amazing climbers. For a lot of us, it’s our first season competing, whereas Zach [Levy ‘21] has been competing for a long time—and he made it to finals—so it was really cool to cheer him on.

BH: When did you start climbing?

CB: I became more interested when I came to CC, but then really didn’t start climbing regularly until three months ago when I quit track.

BH: Yes, so you transitioned from being a pole vaulter on the track team last year to being a climber. What do you like more about training for climbing?

CB: Training for them is very similar because they both require a lot of total body strength, a lot of core and arms. But climbing, I can go to the gym whenever and have more freedom, whereas with pole vault it’s pretty strict in terms of when you can vault and use the pits and everything. I also like climbing outside. I guess that sounds stupid because I also pole vaulted outside, but out on real rocks instead of just on the track at school.

BH: You’ve played varsity and club sports here. Have you also found success in the intramural realm of sport at CC?

CB: Yep, this year we were broomball champions; it was a great time. Unfortunately, I injured my hip climbing, so I played for about a total of two minutes in the game, but you know, that win just really motivated me. It was the highlight of my athletic career.

BH: Are you going to be pursuing the ‘ship again next year?

CB: Definitely going to pursue broomball again; we’re going back for the title in 2019.

BH: What’s your favorite nickname?

CB: Gnarly Carly.

BH: And where’s that from?

CB: Well FYE freshman year, Ben Hall gave me that nickname.

BH: That’s me!

CB: Yeah it is! It just kind of stuck; it’s pretty fitting. Everyone also calls me Carl.

BH: You were a competitive Olympic weightlifter in high school in New Mexico: tell me about that.

CB: Yes, sir. I did a few competitions. With Olympic lifting, it takes a while to get the form down and everything, so it was kind of the early stages of that, but I think it’s a really cool sport because it’s more functional strength.

BH: So how did you fare in those competitions?

CB: Well, it’s kind of a long story, but three days before the competition I did lifts that would’ve been state records. Then two days before the competition, my foot slid out while I was doing a clean and jerk, and I dropped 130 pounds on my knee. And in the competition I came 1 kg short of the state record.

BH: How are you liking the field trip we’re currently on?

CB: It’s been a great time standing in some rivers while it’s snowing outside. It’s a bit chilly, but we have a great group and we’re going to some really cool places.

BH: What’s your favorite climbing slang phrase?

CB: The classic is just “send it.”

BH: What does that mean to you?

CB: Just get into it, giving it your all. Grip and rip it.

BH: Heck yeah.

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