LA SPORTIVA LEGENDS ONLY
The past few weeks have been really busy so I didn’t have that much time to get nervous or excited about going to Sweden. Before I knew it I was back in the familiar surroundings of Manchester Airport, I almost felt liked I had missed the place. I was sat in the airport waiting to fly out to Stockholm to set some boulder problems for some of the worlds best boulderer’s, suddenly it all sunk in.
I had to set for one of the most watched events in the history of the sport. The 2011 La Sportiva Legends Only video has been watched over 100,000 times on youtube. I had to set boulder problems at and far beyond my own physical limit. It was super exciting but I was extremely nervous too!
I love route setting. I think its really satisfying to put some holds on a wall in a specific way that people will have pleasure climbing up or trying to climb up. I like that people will enjoy boulder problems for different reasons. Maybe they find it challenging, fun, easy, flowing maybe even awkward. I think its cool that people can find different aspects enjoyable. Like the people who enjoy scary slab climbing, they are crazy!
I always try to set boulder problems that people will enjoy. I like to try and make moves that people might not have done before. After all a boulder problem is suppose to a be ‘problem’ that you have to figure out right?
So in the week before Legends Only I set a few hard boulder problems at The Climbing Hangar. It was a really fun day setting, making up crazy moves and setting boulders from funky awkwardness to basic pulling on tiny crimps and big pinches. I was a little worried that my boulder problems might not climb very well as I had been off the wall for so long and hadn’t set in a while. Luckily this was not the case at all and I was really really pleased with the boulder problems I had created. Between myself and a friend we set 20 boulder problems and tested them. I completed a few but the rest were to be mini projects. These problems were all possible for me though and I could do most of the moves. I had to take things to a whole new level for Legends Only though. It was time to set the hardest problems I could imagine. I know a lot of people in England say you can’t get harder than V8+/7b+ indoors… It was time to put that theory to the test.
I arrived in Sweden to lots of snow and freezing cold temperatures. I am not the biggest fan of the cold but it was so nice to see the snow brightening the dark city and giving it a very Christmasy feel.
Setting began around 10am Friday morning after lots of coffee of course, having a trained barrista on your setting team is definitely a MUST! We were a team of five myself, Robert Rundin, Jocke Berglund, Stefan Eklund and Chris Ellis. So with good coffee being the source of most motivation and success in my life it was time to begin setting. A huge blank wall lay in front of us and there were lots of ideas floating about which was definitely a good thing! Between us we had ideas for each section of wall so it was just down to whacking some holds on the walls and seeing what we came up with.
People often ask me if I have a plan when I come to set a boulder problems, if I draw something up or have a detailed idea ready. The truth is I never really have a plan. I might want to set a specific move or use a certain hold but my method is to simply get the holds on the wall and see how they feel. Setting boulder problems at and way beyond my own physical limit was new but this did not change my method, just the size and angle of the holds and the distance between them. It was hard to comprehend where the competitors physical barriers were. Did they even have any? If I put a crimp on the wall, even the smallest crimp, almost invisible, I am pretty sure they could hold it. The boulders had to be possible but hard. So the question was how do we make some of them but not all of them fall off?
A competition is a show, it has to be entertaining for the audience or else whats the point? The boulders had to be perfect, too many tops and having people tie would be rubbish and not so fun to see at all. Too few tops and the comp is lame too! The boulders we came up with after eight hours were all very different. Each one tested the athletes in a different way from basic pulling power to balancy awkward compression. The boulder problems were tweaked and tweaked and tweaked until it was time for the compeitiors Adam Ondra, Sean McColl, Jakob Schubert, Dmitry Sharafutdinov and Guillaume Glairon-Mondet to have 2 hours working on the boulder problems.
The boulders looked much easier with all of the test jugs on!
Yep, the competitors got a chance to practice the competition boulder problems. So these guys can climb v14 and harder on rock. They can flash HARD boulder problems! So these problems that they were competing on had to be REALLY HARD! They had two hours to work out the perfect beta, practice the hard moves and perfect the insecure movements. I was pretty nervous about seeing these guys on the problems. I was scared that they would all be too easy and it would it be highly embarrassing and would result in me giving female route setters a bad name.
Sean and Adam during the test period!
Turns out those guys are all pretty weak and we had to make three of the boulders easier… punters eh! It was quite satisfying to see them falling off (I mean that in the nicest way possible). It’s easy to watch them climb and think that they aren’t human, that they are invincible. It kinda looks like they are sometimes but they were definitely tested and pushed. Not one boulder was flashed in practice. PHEW! We moved a couple of holds about and by the end of the practice period no moves were left undone. Only one boulder had been completed start to finish and I think every climber had one move that they had not yet completed. Exciting!
In the next 24 hours I began to think that they might be too easy! I got more nervous about this comp than I do about competing myself. There were 700 spectators coming to the event and thousands of people watching on the live feed. My name up there as chief route setter meant that if the boulders were rubbish and didn’t put on a good show it was all on me!
The competitors arrived in very classy style: limo, smoke, lights and a very excited crowd. 5 of the best climbers in the world about to compete in what is fast becoming acknowledged as one of the best competitions in the world! It was go time…
The first boulder was so cool! It required a tough fight though some volumes with the competitor facing the crowd, followed by very exciting wild flick that got the crowd hyped up. We had expected this boulder to see every climber top and we’d expected most to get it first try. The climbers did not live up to such expectations, the group was split already. They far exceeded expectations on boulder 2. In practice the huge dyno looked crazy hard! With some epic falls the climbers were slamming into the ground all over the place. This was not the case on comp day. Each of them climbed it in flawless style and made it look simple.
Two boulders down. It was going good. Number 3: tiny little holds, every one but the final jug was a screw on. It had a really cool, stupidly hard rose move in the middle. It was crazy to see how insanely strong some of the guys looked on this move and how much others struggled. The climbers strengths and weaknesses were definitely highlighted in this competition. Sean, Jakob and Dmitri all crushed the third boulder! Jakob hadn’t even competed the move in practice yet with the crowd and his fellow competitors stood cheering him on he climbed it beautifully. The fourth boulder was up the steepest section right in the centre of the wall on big green blobs and some impossible looking black triangles. In practice this had looked to be the hardest problem. Imagine a tiny little crimp in a super steep roof and then an even smaller crimp and then off these two holds a dyno into a compression and you have the crux. The first four climbers got close, Jakob looked like he had it but the swing was just too much. I had been so happy with this boulder problem. It climbed so well and looked really cool but as they first four climbers proved it was also insanely hard! Dmitry was last to climb. I really wanted everyone to see how this boulder problem climbed. I think Dmitry could possibly have the strongest fingers in the world? He caught the dyno first try and with the ecstatic electrifying crown battled his way to the final move. He got so close, painfully close, but greased off right at the last moment. A very valiant effort and totally inspiring to watch.
A comp shouldn’t be over until it’s over… The last boulder would be the decision between Sean and Dmitri for first place. I was so happy with the way it had turned out and the last boulder was still super exciting. Dmitri flashed the boulder almost effortlessly but Sean just had to top to win. As a route setter this is quite a good ending, a very close competition and the crowd loving it! Sean knew what he had to do as did the crowd… He had a bit of a nightmare on the crux move of this boulder in practice and on his first attempt this was visible. After fumbling the foot placement that amusingly he’d never actually practised before as during the test period he’d always pulled onto the move using the practice jug which made the foot placement easy. One go was enough to learn how to do it efficiently and his next try was perfect. Perfect enough to claim him first place.
All in all route setting is pretty stressful and I can imagine it is not so fun when it goes wrong. When it goes right, its awesome! I am totally satisfied with the competition and I just hope that everyone who watched enjoyed it as much as I did? My first chief route setter job at one of the biggest comps ever and I think I did quite a good job (for a girl ) haha! I also think I might have managed to set something harder than V8+? What do you think?
Congratulations to the organisers for putting on an amazing show! I have never been to such a smoothly run climbing competition! The Legends also need a huge appreciation, they are the ones who make the show after all. RESULTS LIST!
Also, I would like to thank all of the competitors for supporting Climbers Against Cancer! I will publish a piece about CAC next week so stay tuned for that…