Top professional rock climber in Central Oregon

• Belgian climber Anak Verhoeven will give a free public presentation called, “Winning World Cups, Redpointing Strategies and Why I Climb for Jesus,” at 8 o’clock tonight at the Bend Rock Gym, 1182 SE Centennial Court, Bend.

• Verhoeven will also conduct rock climbing clinics at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bend Rock Gym. The focus will be on improving lead-climbing abilities. The clinic is free, but Bend Rock Gym entrance fees are required. Participants must send an RSVP email to . Each session is limited to six participants of 5.10 lead-climbing ability.

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The current Central Oregon weather conditions are ideal for rock climbing — indoor rock climbing, that is — and the Bend Rock Gym this week will host one of the most accomplished female rock climbers in the world.

Anak Verhoeven of Belgium posted two World Cup wins this past season in the International Federation of Sport Climbing, and she finished the season second overall.

Verhoeven, 20, will give a presentation at 8 o’clock tonight at the Bend Rock Gym and will also conduct clinics at the gym on Saturday.

A devout Christian, Verhoeven is sponsored by Solid Rock Climbers for Christ, and Bend’s Calvin Landrus is the executive director of Solid Rock.

“We’re very excited to have her be able to come here to Central Oregon, and share with us her climbing at a world-class level and who she is as a person,” Landrus says. “She has done routes that when guys do them makes press. And if it’s a female doing it, it’s a very big deal.”

Between indoor World Cup victories in Italy and Slovenia this past year, Verhoeven also climbed three 5.14d routes (among the hardest routes ever climbed by a woman, based on the rock-climbing scale of difficulty) outdoors in Spain and France.

Verhoeven made her way to Central Oregon this week after conducting a youth training camp for the IFSC in Victoria, British Columbia.

Her parents introduced her to rock climbing when she was just 4, and Verhoeven spent lots of time climbing outdoors in nearby France with her family. By the time she was 11 she was climbing more seriously and entering indoor youth competitions. She started competing internationally at 14.

“People said I climbed beautifully, but I didn’t realize or didn’t see that, I just climbed,” Verhoeven says.

The small town of Schriek, Belgium, where Verhoeven lives, is quite flat, so indoor rock climbing is her main option.

“I prefer climbing outdoors, but I just don’t have a lot of time to do that and the competitions are only indoors,” she says. “Ninety percent of the climbing I do is indoors.”

Verhoeven competes mostly in lead climbing, the most common type of indoor sport climbing. In lead climbing, competitors start at the bottom of a route and must climb the route in a certain amount of time, according to The climbers clip into pre-placed quickdraws along the route and are rated by the highest hold that they reach.

Verhoeven is one of many young female climbers who are making a name for themselves in a sport in which the women are often just as lauded as the men.

“I’m really glad that the female competitions are as important as the male competitions, because that’s not the case in a lot of other sports,” Verhoeven says. “But it’s still not easy to be a female climber, since the route-setters are male, so sometimes they don’t think about smaller women (like Verhoeven). Sometimes it’s impossible to climb something because it’s been built by a man. But female climbers are getting stronger and stronger and doing hard things.”

This past spring, Verhoeven accomplished a first ascent — meaning she became the first person to ever climb the route — of a 5.14d route in Romeyer, France.

“That was very special because I was the first one to climb it,” she says. “That doesn’t happen very often for women, because men usually bolt the route and then climb it first, and the women come later.”

Verheven went on to climb two similarly challenging routes in Siurana, Spain, in October. She considers climbing outdoors “a bonus.”

“Most of the time I’m training and competing,” she says, “so I only get to climb outside about twice a year.”

Here in Central Oregon, where Smith Rock State Park and other climbing areas are currently covered in snow, Verhoeven is just fine with climbing inside.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,