For nearly four decades, the Pocatello Pump has been inviting climbers of all abilities to come out and chalk up.
Inspired by the Soviet climbing competitions of the Cold War era, the Pump has become the longest-running climbing event in the United States.
“Way back when, when I was a college student, I had this crazy idea to start a competition, just to get the local climbing community together for the weekend,” founder Peter Joyce explained. “It was 38 years ago I started it.”
Joyce, now the outdoor recreation coordinator at ISU, remembers a time when competitions of the sort were rare. Now, his competition is the longest of its kind.
“To see it get bigger and bigger and stay tells me that people are having fun, which was my main goal — to bring people together to celebrate climbing and have fun together,” Joyce explained. “I keep seeing people come back year after year, so it tells me we’re doing a good thing here.”
The competition, which awards points for the difficulty of each face, is also a fundraiser that puts money back into the climbing community and benefits a climbing scholarship at ISU.
With beginner climbers and American Ninja Warriors taking part, Joyce said he believes the best way to learn and improve is by watching others.
“So, here we have some of the best climbers in the Intermountain West throwing down. So it’s a great way to pick up tips and then rub shoulders with a celebrity.”
Looking back on nearly four decades of climbs, Joyce said he believes it’s worked because he’s always aimed at the weekend warriors of climbing instead of trying to pull in the faces from magazine covers.
So, logically, the next milestone would be the climb’s 40th anniversary. But Joyce say’s he won’t be behind that one.
“To be honest with you, this is my last Pump. I retire from the university next year. So, this is kind of a swan song for me,” he explained.
“But we’re going to keep it going. Like I said, it supports a lot of different fundraising activities. Why would we stop when we’re so successful?”
And although Joyce will no longer be running the event he calls “his baby,” he’ll still be there.
“I’ll keep coming to the pump. I’ll just be climbing with everyone else. I just won’t have to stress all the organizational stuff.”
With all that behind him, Joyce is looking forward to a more relaxed effort next year.
“I don’t sleep well this week. So, next year, I’ll be sleeping sound,” he said.