Monday, 21 October 2013


I was selected for the GB junior bouldering team last year, at the December youth open, but last weekend was the first time I’d had the opportunity to experience a European bouldering competition. We met the team in Manchester airport, and after a bumpy flight, a long wait at the airport and negotiating the infamous traffic of Paris, we arrived in the city. The competition was being advertised everywhere, so we knew the finals were going to be a real spectacle.

After a long opening ceremony on the Friday night, we headed for bed, ready for an early start on the Saturday to watch the girls and prepare for our qualifications. The wall looked amazing, 4 blocs separate from each other on the raised stage of a stadium sized arena. We went for a run to warm up in the morning cold, and then headed to the warm up wall below the arena. While bouldering to warm up, I was impressed at just how strong some of the climbers were, and knew it was going to be a tough competition. I’d not experienced European blocs before, so was keen to get on them and see how they felt.

It was a frustrating competition for me. I topped the first problem I tried, a quite powerful but technical climb up a vertical wall on gastons, but it went downhill from there. I seemed to be close on so many problems, but could not get the tops I needed. I managed the first, easiest problem after that, but no more. The main difference I discovered compared to lead competitions, is that while there is less pressure on every attempt, as if you’re off that’s not it all over, you need to keep motivated and positive throughout the whole of the 2 hour period. If you fall in a lead comp you have hours or even a day between routes to reflect, get frustrated and get psyched, but in a boulder comp every fall builds up, and requires a quite different mindset to deal with, something that with my relative inexperience of bouldering I have not yet learnt. This will come with time, but its still going to be annoying to fall off with a hand on the finishing hold, or come within a move of topping 3 others.

For Nathan, the captain of the GB team, this was his last junior competition, and he went out with style! He won the final in an atmosphere of the best psyche I’ve seen in a competition. It really was inspiring to see, and it was great to see him on the top step of the podium, the first I’ve seen since I stared competing.

The next day was the turn of the Youth B’s, and they had their qualification in a separate venue. In their first boulder competition, Pete and William both managed to make a European final! I really do envy them for their qualifiers, a whole set of slabs and crimps, hopefully something I get more of, rather than powerful campus moves off slopers, not really my thing that! It was another great final, and we cam away with another podium, with William making 3rd place!

I really enjoyed my first boulder comp, and really hope I get to take part in more next year! 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

BLCCs 2013

Every year the British Lead Climbing Championships is held too far away in the smoke fuelled north. This year, happily, it was a little bit less north, with the event taking place for the first time I can remember south of the border at the new Awesome Walls centre in Sheffield. The wall looks amazing, and is great to climb on, it’s just a shame it’s so far away or it would be perfect for training. This was the first time the wall had be used, opening for the comp, so it was the perfect level playing field.

The Saturday was the day for the junior competition, so we arrived bright and early to view the new wall and the routes that had been set for us. They looked great, and I was early on my first route, so set about warming up. The first route was really easy, no harder than 7a I’m sure, but the entire category topped it, so it was all down to the second qualifier.

This was the first route of the day up the main steep competition wall, and it followed the right arĂȘte of the protruding roof. This wall just as steep as the Ratho hangar wall, and is the closest I’ve seen in this country that comes close to that level of imposingness. The route began with a technical section of crimps and undercuts, before moving downwards onto a jug and a big move out around the arĂȘte. I hung around for too long on the jugs under the lip, shaking out the pump building in my arms but it was only getting worse. I had to go, and got my foot high and threw for the hold, my feet swinging off but sticking the move. I was pumped by this point, but kept moving and managed a couple more big moves before an awkward cross under spat me off. With only 4 in the category making it through to the final it was going to be tight as to who made it, and after Buster and Connor topped the route there were only 2 places remaining. Fortunately the 2 people who got past the big move in the roof fell off the same move as me, so I qualified for the final in =3rd place.

So pumped I'm dragging! Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

I was annoyed that the route we were to be climbing was leaked before isolation, so everyone had ample time to read the route and decide their sequence. I feel like the onsight factor suites me with just a 6 minute observation, so to have climbers discussing routes with their coaches or even drawing route maps is frustrating, and ruins the feel of a final for me.

My final route went straight through the steepest part of the roof, and looked particularly cruxy through the beginning of the roof. I was first out, and the beginning section was much more powerful and pumpy than I expected, and I had to throw for a lot of holds, not the ideal style for a lead competition. I arrived at the roof pumped, and despite shaking out on a sloper below the steep section I had to continue climbing still pumped. I reached an undercut at the beginning of the roof, threw out to a side-pull further out and got my heel under the undercut. The move I had read looked too big, so I desperately grabbed for a volume that I, and the rest of my category, had read as a foothold. I spent a good 2 minutes scoping out every surface of that volume with a pair of binoculars and could see no hold, but to my surprise, there was a veritable jug on the other side. I knew I would have to bicycle the hold next to my right hand to stick the move, but my heel was on the wrong side and I was too pumped to switch my feet, so I squeezed and hoped I could make the match, but was off. All but one in the category read the move wrong, and Connor made it to the same place as I did, placing my 2nd via count back. I’m pleased with the result, though it was luck that got me there more than anything. I have defiantly learned not to discount holds, especially if they appear to be the only way!

Heel up and moving to the mysterious volume... Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

The next day, and it was time for the senior event. This is the first year I have be eligible to compete in the senior competition, and was keen to make the most of it. I was on my hardest route first, so was psyched and ready to go when the time came. I was on early, so not too many people had gone, but there seemed to be big moves between slopers low down, and then my perfect style higher up, technical and crimpy on a slightly overhanging wall.

The route felt awkward and hard from the start, with a match by the 4th clip feeling very hard. I knew a big move was coming, and clipped high ready to jump between the slopers. I moved into the first, it felt terrible and slippery, and I stopped to consider my options, reversing the move. I knew it was big, and it looked bigger from here, so I knew I was going to have to jump, boulder style or try and get my foot up and static the move. I opted for the latter, a mistake it would seem after I slid backwards off the route, only 14 moves in. It was frustrating to fall off that low, but I know that next year I will be stronger and taller, ready to tackle the harder moves in the seniors.

Starting up Route 1. Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

The second route was my exact style, vertical and crimpy, and I topped it pretty easily, along with about 10 others. A nice end, but not enough for the final. A frustrating end to my first senior BLCCs.

Crimpin' on route 2! Photo credit: Peter Wuensche
I have just returned from my first Boulder EYC in Laval, France, so will be blogging soon about my weekend and experiences. Stay tuned!