Competition bouldering has grown in popularity massively in the past few years thanks to the boom in indoor centres. I have recently started to throw myself into some comps around the country, partly for fun and partly to test myself in an environment which is relatively unfamiliar to me. Although I have entered a few local comps I have never actively sought to improve my comp climbing. I think this was partly due to the fear of failure where I believe I could do well theoretically. I was also pretty nervous to start comparing myself to some of the big names in the country and the wider population, or that’s at least how I saw it.
In at the deep end: Superbloc
Superbloc was a great comp to be a part of, with may top climbers there as part of British team selection. I was very excited to take part and chat to people on the day. The result was something metaphorically akin to throwing a puppy into the deep end of a crocodile infested pool and watching it try to swim. All my nerves got the better of me I think and I totally psyched myself out on most of the problems where I had any self-doubt. It felt like a really hard set, a lot of the problems being a bit too hard for me to glean any points in just three attempts. This wasn’t helped by my nerves and therefore lack of core engagement and composure. This, coupled with the heat, meant I got frustrated with my performance towards the end of the session.
My aim for the day was to qualify for the semi-finals the next day, but I only managed 7/20 problems in the end. Not enough. All the problems were well set and in hindsight I am pleased with some of the things I did. There were 4/5 problems that I thought I could/ should have done within three goes and I think nearly all the problems there were within my capability given a bit more time. If I had done the problems I thought I should have, then it turns out I probably would have made it to the semis. But that’s a lot of ifs, buts and excuses which is not what it’s about. It was a very good day for many reasons. Even though I came away feeling deflated I took away a huge appreciation for the abilities of the top climbers there to on-sight hard climbs with composure and confidence. It was probably the shock to the system I needed for several reasons:
- It showed I have a lot to work on, both for my climbing in general and for comp climbing in particular.
- Jumping in at the deep end has nullified some of my nerves for subsequent comps
- It taught me a valuable lesson about why I enjoy climbing and how to enjoy it in a different situation and environment.
- It illustrated the different tactical and non-climbing related skills I need for a competing.
- And also brought home the difference between climbing 7C and on sighting 7C in front of a crowd!
BUCS, for those that don’t know, is the British University and College Sports organisation that runs everything from climbing to fencing competitions across the country for students. There was some serious competition in Sheffield, including British team members and a huge number of people from all over the country, crammed into the Works Climbing centre. The usual scoring system applied (attempt 1=10 points, 2nd= 7 and 3rd =4) with one point bonus holds. The climbs were set for all abilities up to about 7C+, but there weren’t many problems above 7A+. The setting was very mixed, with some crazy swinging bar and ball problems thrown in for entertainment. I was however a bit disappointed with the standard of setting at some of the lower grades. I thought some were a bit mundane and could have been better thought out. It was also very busy so queueing for problems was not much fun. That’s always going to be the case with these sort of comps though, and at least we were given plenty of time to do everything.
Overall I had a good time and just told myself to have a bit of fun! There were a couple of climbs which I did on the fourth try and lost vital points, and a couple which I leaked points on by not reading the best sequence or popping off on my first attempt. I was pleased, however, with my more relaxed attitude and composure to recover from these things and just enjoy the climbs, whichever go I did them on. Overall I got 190/250 points and came joint 37th out of 218 male climbers. I am always critical of myself and on a better day I think I could have easily come away with 210 points. But I think that’s the (hopefully temporary) relationship with comp climbing that I just have to embrace, work on and draw motivation and confidence from.
I was convinced after Superbloc that I wasn’t well suited to comp climbing. I still believe I am a weak comp climber all things considered, but I think it is something I will start to work on as it will improve my overall climbing in many respects. The art of reading problems in a way that suits you, keeping composed under pressure and concentrating hours of training into a few tenacious attempts I can see becoming addictive. However, it can also be the most frustrating thing ever! I have a lot to work on if I want to start trying for the British team, but ultimately comp climbing is just one fun and sociable piece of a very large personal climbing puzzle.