When you think about what defines Colorado’s Front Range, adventure sports including rock climbing are near the top of the list. More and more, biosciences and medical innovation including cancer research are high on the list, too. Now a fun event at the Denver Bouldering Club combines the two. On February 29, the 7th annual Heart & Soul Climbing Competition will raise money and awareness for research at University of Colorado Cancer Center.

“Cancer is something that has affected every member of our staff personally – you could go through the crowd at Heart and Soul and every person would have their own cancer story.

Climbing is a selfish pursuit to some extent, and this is our way to step outside our own bubble and say there’s something else going on in the world,” says John Gass, the gym’s climbing services manager.

The fun event is appropriate for all ages and ability levels, from beginners who can rent climbing shoes at the gym, to pros who will compete for $4,000 in cash prizes in the Open division. Since the inaugural event in 2014, the Heart and Soul Climbing Competition has raised just over $70,000 for cancer research through ticket sales, day-of donations, and online fundraising (if you can’t make it to the event, click to donate!). 

“We’ve gotten bigger and better every year,” Gass says. “This year, we’re hoping to push the bar even higher and make it to that $100,000 mark for cancer research. If we can knock it out of the park, we can make it happen!”

CU Cancer Center researcher James Costello, PhD, promises to keep his welcome speech to 5 minutes, tops, before the 7pm finals. And you may even catch a few of his postdocs climbing earlier in the day – if you see folks in blue CU Cancer Center tee shirts, encourage your kids to ask them about their research! Pointing the flow of the climbing/research collaboration in the other direction, Denver Bouldering Club staff recently had the opportunity to tour labs at CU Cancer Center to see their money at work.

“A couple years ago, one of our employees was going through chemo at the same time he was helping with the event. It was really empowering for him and showed us all why we do what we’re doing,” Gass says.

Tickets are $55 until Feb 28 and $65 at the door. Registration includes free food and door prizes donated by event sponsors including Friction Labs, Milestone Homes, Organic Climbing, Groove Toyota Scion, Stone Brewing, Metolius, X-Cult, Escape, Rhino Skin Solutions, Honey Stinger, Brazos Wine Imports, and more.

Really, don’t be shy: “Heart and Soul takes that stress you feel at most climbing comps and replaces it with a community feel where we’re all supporting each other and supporting cancer research,” Gass says.

See you there for this truly only-in-Colorado event!