If you go

What: ABS 14 Youth National Championships

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 Kiowa Street, Colorado Springs

More info: http://absnationals.org

Every morning before they head out the door, 11-year-old Brooke Raboutou and her mom Robyn make a pact to be good to each other all day.

"A lot of times, it's just the two of us looking at each other saying, 'OK, let's start off really on a good note,'" Robyn Raboutou said describing their morning pinkie-promise ritual.

For the Raboutous -- who are both mother-daughter and coach-athlete -- it's what keeps them together day after day.

This weekend, Brooke will compete in Colorado Springs at the American Bouldering Series 14 Youth National Championships while her mom coaches Brooke and 22 other ABC Kids Climbing competitors.

More than 350 climbers from around the country will compete in Colorado Springs, including many from Boulder.

At 11, Brooke has earned more climbing accolades than many adults. She can't remember the first time she climbed, though her mom says she was still a toddler. In climbing speak, last summer Brooke Raboutou became the youngest person to climb a 5.14b route -- a rating on the climbing difficulty spectrum that translates to extremely challenging.


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One day after school, Brooke -- wearing gray and purple leggings and a white Team ABC sleeveless shirt -- bounced on an exercise ball on the unfinished second floor of the ABC Kids Climbing gym. Her father, former climber and French national team member Didier Raboutou worked in the next room.

Didier, now 50, retired from competitive climbing in 1992 and now works mostly as the lead carpenter for the new 7,200-square-foot climbing gym, which opened in May 2012.

Brooke Raboutou, 11, climbs during a team practice on Feb. 7 at ABC Kids Climbing gym in Boulder.
Brooke Raboutou, 11, climbs during a team practice on Feb. 7 at ABC Kids Climbing gym in Boulder. (JEREMY PAPASSO)

While Brooke and other climbers warm-up, Robyn looks on, talking about the day's strategy with the gym's other coaches. Robyn retired from competition in 1996, after racking up five national titles and four world cup titles.

At last year's bouldering nationals, Brooke finished fourth. The year before that, second. This year, the Horizons seventh grader said she's hoping to win, but would also accept a "top-2 finish."

One of her coaches, Obe Carrion, said this week they've been working on the type of routes that might show up at nationals.

Though many Team ABC climbers are impressive, Carrion pointed out Brooke's body awareness and her ability to excel on small holds. He added that because she's been climbing for so long, she has extensive climbing knowledge.

As far as nerves go, Brooke said she still gets a few butterflies in her stomach even after competing for the last six years -- and that's a good thing. Brook said she has two lucky scrunchies that she wears to competitions -- one black with multi-colored stripes, and one red with flames.

"My mom always says if you're too nervous, then you won't be able to focus on climbing, but if you're not nervous it means that you don't really care," Brooke said. "I like that. I'm a little nervous, but not enough to throw me off."

To which her mom, Robyn, replied: "We're always trying to find that balance, huh?"

The two are constantly checking in with each other. Is Brooke happy? Is she tired this week? Should we back off the private lesson this week? These are questions that Robyn thinks about constantly, she said.

Though Brooke climbs upwards of 15 hours each week -- sometimes more -- Robyn said she has no fears about her daughter burning out. The sport requires a certain maturity, Robyn said, and Brooke has made it clear to everyone around her that climbing is her choice.

"Brooke loves it," Robyn said. "She's proven that over and over again. She's the one who says 'Can I go climbing? Can we do this?' and I'm just helping her get there."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.