Montreal Canadian Nationals
May 16 & 17, 2009
(the Canadian version of the ABS US Nationals). A competition of this caliber is the apex of the climbing season for the Canadians. It’s a huge celebration of the climbing community that culminates with the selection of this year’s Canadian National team. People fly out from across the Nation to participate. Wide-eyed and glowing with enthusiasm; Dreams are realized, lessons are learned, but in general, good times are had by all. Personally, I’d like to think I’ve learned some things about competition climbing along the way, things like how to be a stronger climber, compete better, or place well. I have learned some things, but they were not what I was expecting to learn.
The first thing I’ve come to understand about climbing competitions in North America is that there isn’t any money in them. You don’t win a lot of money and the gyms don’t have a lot of money to back the event. This was the case with
Allez Up, the host gym, this year. It was their passion for climbing that made the event happen despite not having sponsors to help finance the event.
Another aspect of competition climbing I’ve come to appreciate is the route setting, which includes hold selection. The problems created for a competition can make or break a comp. They should be creative, crowd pleasing, varied in style, and not too easy overall or too difficult overall for the caliber of climbers in the competition. Hold selection is critical to supporting the route setter’s vision.
The head route setter has to consider every way in which a climber could approach a problem and sort out how to make them perform the way the setter intends. Too contrived and it ruins the problem, too little enforced and you may see unintended sends in manners not considered. This fine balance takes a lot of thought, planning and fine tuning before the competition. When you consider all of these factors it’s not hard to see route setting as an art.
Finally, as with any event, it’s the man behind the curtain that makes it all happen. In this case, it’s the dozens of volunteers and this includes the head jugde. Volunteers spend hours at the competition doing various tasks. They sit with the athletes in isolation, they judge the routes, they sell the food, they walk athletes between problems and to and from the restroom all day long. The head judge fields all questions around rules and makes sure the judging is consistent and understood by both the athletes and the judges. This particular event, for instance, was thick with nuances. It was good to know we had an experienced head judge looking over everything.
I flew out from Seattle to participate in this event and get more experience with compettions. While I do learn something about myself as a competitor and a climber, I have come away with a greater sense of appreciation for what goes into these events and makes them possible for me to participate. These lessons are far greater than any ‘get stronger’ lesson I could have hoped for. I’m very thankful to everyone for their part in making this event happen. Without them and our passion for this sport, I would not have the priviledge to participate in this manner.
Results can be found here: http://www.tourdebloc.com/results_2009_MEC_Canadian_Bouldering_Championships.html