British Bouldering Championships
This year the British Bouldering Championships moved into Sheffield city centre. The new location gave the opportunity for the event to reach more people, the opportunity for the sport to reach more people.
Climbing events in Sheffield always attract a good crowd. This year was no different. I was a little concerned that the weather might put people off. Too much sunshine and all the climbers want to get out on real rock. Too much rain, well, who wants to stand around in the rain and watch a climbing comp. Turns out quite a few people do.
The qualification day was sunshine an showers. Sunshine luckily winning over the the rain. I arrived at the venue armed with my wellington boots, umbrella and waterproof jacket. However, I didn’t require any of these (on Saturday anyway). The boulder problems were really fun and harder than I was expecting. They were an eclectic mix of styles requiring subtle movements up grooves, spicy jumps and tricky volume wrestling. I finished the round with 5 tops in 5 attempts. Climbing first meant I got to spend some time watching the other competitors. i love watching people climb. Especially in a competition setting. It was really cool to get to cheer on my good friend Gracie Martin. Gracie joined Leah and myself training under Mark’s watchful eye in Liverpool a short while back and it’s been incredible to see how hard she’s worked and how dedicated she is to her training and progression. Her battle up the third qualification boulder was inspiring. It was only Gracie and myself that managed to get the top of this one. My throat was sore from cheering so loud!
It was cool to see the guys on their boulders too. They looked really run. I really wish I could have tried them.
Semi finals was another fun round. Again the boulders were spicy. On the first I ended up facing the crowd bridged in a corner, which I thought was the right way way to do it. Subsequently no one else tried it that way but it seemed to work for me. I was able to top the first three boulders on my first attempt. The final boulder took me two attempts. I was a little slow on my first try at jumping over onto and up off a volume. I was initially unsure as to which way I should try this boulder. It looked possible to carefully step across, staying in balance and therefore doing the moves in a controlled manor. However, it also looked possible to leap to a good hold higher up with you left hand which looked like it’d be good if you could hit the volume with your right to keep the tension between the two holds. I opted for the latter. I thought it’d be more fun. My first attempt was a little lame. I didn’t go fast enough or hard enough and found myself back on the mat prematurely. It’s always hard to know what to do when you fall off in a comp. Especially if you have an alternate method in mind. There are so many factors that come into play. It’s a process I find really interesting. This time I decided to try my initial method again after some consideration of course. I didn’t get to see anyone else climb on this boulder, or anyone else climbing in the semi final at all becuase I climbed last, this would be the case again in the final as I had qualified in first place.
I was really impressed with the showing from the crowd the entire weekend. However, I did get a little worried when a sudden heavy down pour came just before I had to head into isolation for the final. This sudden down pour didn’t last long but it was the first of a few. When the time came for us to go out for presentation there was a sea of waterproof jackets and umbrellas. Amazing. So many people had come to watch us climb regardless of the conditions. It was time for us to put on a good show for them. Finals always feels like it’s a show, much more so than any of the other rounds and regardless of how big the competition is. If the boulders are good and the atmosphere is there then it’s our job to go out and try our best to get up the boulders and make it a good show.
The route setters had done a brilliant job. I guess we’re pretty lucky to have multiple World renowned route setters working on our national event. I was excited to climb. The first boulder looked really tricky and I couldn’t decide what the intended method was at the start. I read the boulders with Leah and Gracie. Oh yes, how did I forget to mention that Gracie got into finals! I was so flipping psyched for her! Of course I was psyched for Leah too and it was really nice to read the boulders together. Leah and I both had different ideas for the start of the first boulder and decided to try different methods. It was a little disconcerting but we often find our own unique beta. From isolation I could tell there had been a few tops of the first boulder. It also sounded like some had got agonisingly close too. The start of the boulder was interesting. You had to get into an awkward crouched position and pounce out. My plan for the beginning worked but then it got even harder. There were some tenuous moves across the vert wall. I ended up going fast and just managed to stick the final hold. All of the final boulders were fun to climb. I was most pleased with my flash of the last one as I managed to successfully hand jam in a crack! All of that training with Pete Whitt earlier this year paid off!
I finished the final round with 4 tops in 4 attempts which put me in first place. Matt Cousins took the victory for the men in what I hear was a great, nail biting show. Leah and Gracie finished 3rd and 5th respectively. It was amazing to hear that over 12000 people from over 130 countries tuned in to the live stream during the event too. Thanks to many people, companies and organisations the British Bouldering Championships was a brilliant, successful event. Maybe one day we can get a Bouldering World Cup back to Sheffield. The city centre sure would be an incredible setting for it!