Dynos in Cages: The Dominion Energy Riverrock

Two non-profit organizations, Sports Backers and Venture Richmond, combined forces from May 17 to 19 to stage the country’s biggest outdoor life and music festival— Dominion Energy Riverrock. 100,000 attendees enjoyed live music, outdoor competitions, art and the main climbing event: dynos and races on steel cages constructed via 30 mega volumes mounted on a 35,700-pound steel structure.

Photo Daniel Gajda

The first time I competed was in 2014 when I was 14 years old,” said Kai Lightner, a regular crowd favorite at Dominion. He won in 2017. “My favorite part of Dominion Riverrock is the amazing crowd and the unique format of the competition. Being both a sport climber and a boulderer, DRR is a real cool combination of both of those disciplines and has always suited my style pretty well!”

Invited climbers had the opportunity to compete in the Boulder Bash and the Speed competition, both of which were held on the cages. Twenty male and female athletes, who climbed at least V8 and V10, respectively, to qualify, kicked off the comp in the first round Friday night, May 17. The top 15 athletes moved on to semifinals the following day and top ten advanced to the finals. The semifinals and finals rounds each offered just one boulder to test the athletes.

The winners, Alex Waterhouse and Arabella Jariel, each took home $1,500.

“I recommend that future competitors train ropes as well as get used to the dynamic style that they like to set,” said Jariel. “All the climbs require a lot of endurance, and I’ve gotten a jump or coordination move almost every year.” Jariel has now graced the Dominion Energy Riverrock podium five times.

Photo Daniel Gajda

The Speed competition, on Sunday, May 18, involved head to head races on identical boulders. Climbers were ranked based on the cumulative time from two qualifying runs. The top ten moved on to finals, where they again raced head to head.

First place finishers, John Brosler and Megan Lynch, won $500.

Araina Matthews placed second behind Lynch. “[The Speed competition] is just campusing up jugs in a kind of awkward sequence and flailing your legs around until you get to the top,” she said. “It really hurts your skin- and happens at the end of the competition, so your skin is already destroyed! I still have a flapper.”

Besides climbing, there were plenty of other events for pros and novices alike. Activities included kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, running, mountain biking, dog jumping, adventure racing and more. At the end of the day, attendees were serenaded by Billy Strings and Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Results – Boulder Bash

Results – Speed Competition

Follow riverrockrva.com for news about next year’s dates.


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  • Delaney Miller is a three time U.S. Champion in the open Sports Climbing Series. In total, Miller has won 12 Championship titles between youth and adult, National and Pan-American competitions. She has three years of coaching experience and a degree in Health and Exercise Science from Colorado State University.

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