(all pictures courtesy Southern Indoor Bouldering League.)
Looks easy but it's not....a problem on the Arethusa Wall in 1999. This problem was about...© SIBL, Oct 2004
Cold, wet, windy... it's the season for indoor bouldering competitions again, as a quick glance at the news section will show. You know where to go and when, but if you're never entered, or been to a couple and felt disappointed, what's the way to do best? Here's your guide from someone who's been doing it for five years.
If you haven't been to a bouldering competition, here's what to expect: there will be about 20 problems, of increasing difficulty. You will get a few goes (usually three) to complete them. Friends can suggest helpful things like "Grab the hold!"
You'll have a card you take to judges at each problem, and they mark you according to how you do. In the Southern Bouldering league, for example, you get three goes: if you complete the problem first time you get 10 pts; second time, 7pts; third time, 3pts. Some problems have "bonus" holds - reach those and you get an extra point. (They're usually disgustingly hard.)
Now you know that, what's the best way to get the most marks you can?
Now that's technique: Roy, the evergreen veteran of the Southern League, plugging a crack...© SIBL, Oct 2004
Before the comp
- Go along intending to do really well
This sounds obvious but you'd be amazed by the number of people who pay £10 or whatever and then don't put their full effort into competing. Afterwards they excuse their low score by saying "Yeah, but I wasn't really trying." The implication being that if they had tried, they would have done great. That's a lie to themselves and everyone else. If you're going to turn up, try to achieve.
- View it as a chance to learn how to climb better
Few people win prizes at comps. But it is a chance to see lots of people trying the same problems as you. This can be really educational. Watch what people do: when they fail on problems you can do, is it because their footwork is worse, or do they just try the wrong sequence? When someone succeeds on something you can't quite manage, is it just strength or are they positioning their body better?
Everybody always thinks that people who climb better than them are just stronger. This isn't necessarily true. Often it's about balance, control and technique, not yarding on crimps.
- Before the comp, warm up
Sounds obvious, but too many people don't. Stretch your legs, fingers, warm up your shoulders. Do some light bouldering if there's space in the wall.
- Have a look at the problems and try to size them up: easy, feasible, hard, impossible
Get some sort of ranking of the problems in your mind so that you don't leap onto something impossible. You'll want to do a couple of easy ones first just to get into the swing of things. You'll want to leave the impossible ones till last.
It looked easy when Roy did it... some problems turn out much harder than you expect.© SIBL, Oct 2004
During the comp
- Thank the judges and organisers
Without them, what would you have done? They've been nice to you. Return the favour.
- Remember, it's not life and death
And if you really really hated it, you could always go climbing (or drinking) the next time.
Charles Arthur has been flailing away, but gradually improving, in the Southern Bouldering League for five years and has the T-shirts to prove it.