Cliffhanger, home to the British Bouldering Championships (a.k.a. the BBC's), rolled into Sheffield last weekend bringing with it some of the strongest boulderers in the UK. In complete contrast to last year's event which was (literally) a washout, this year's Cliffhanger was a total roaster. Bloc-masters, setters, officials, photographers, film-makers, and spectators alike, gasped for air as well as holds beneath the giant marquee adding an additional and different twist to the fierce competition.
The two-day event kicked-off with the qualification round on the Saturday. Competition, like the ambient conditions, was red-hot, and the 80-odd competitors were halved ahead of the semi and final rounds. Sunday, a.k.a. 'The Business Day', saw the setters produce some particularly tricky blocs to cut the competitors back to 6 for the final round. As the results show, the men's semi was especially savage and very few competitors topped-out the problems; Stewart Watson alone claiming 2 'tops'. Hard on the heels of Watson came two young guns; Dominic Burns and James Garden whilst defending champ, Dave Barrans, just beat the cut to qualify for the finals in sixth position. It was looking like a major upset was about to happen. The women's comp produced a more even spread of results although it was the defending champ, Shauna Coxsey, alone that topped-out on all four problems with the mighty Alex Puccio running second, then Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Leah Crane chasing hard close behind.
By the time the final and deciding round kicked-off many in the audience smelt drama in the air –especially so down in SW19 if not in Graves Park itself! Climbing two at a time, the men and women's final was a heart-stopping affair all round. The setters, which as usual contained Percy Bishton and Ian Vickers, dished-up a fiendish mix of the delicate and balancy as well as the funky and powerful using plenty of volumes with a few skanky holds thrown in for good measure. Problem 1 of the women's circuit tackled a slightly off vertical panel (of all things) yet the lousy-looking holds caused major problems and frustrations for many. Problem 2 of the men's circuit looked equally funky. No self-respecting comp these days is complete without a barrow load of blobs and volumes and Cliffhanger was keen to up-hold that tradition and provided, right in queue, blobs a-plenty on the later blocs. Flexibility, as well as strength was tested to the max on these later problems; the setters wringing out the full deployment of tricks and then some in the roasting heat.
Ultimately, the 2012 champions, Shauna Coxsey and Dave Barrans, retained their top-gun status. Dave Barrans truly pulled the rabbit out of the hat to leap-frog ahead of the entire field to finish in 1st place. Like Dave, James Garden, Ben West and Jon Partridge all topped-out on two problems apiece – the only deciding factor came from the number of attempts the various competitors had taken. Like the women's semis, Shauna dominated the women's final pulling all four tops in just four decisive attempts. Shauna's bid for bloc dominance both in the domestic and international arena moves inextricably closer it seems! Mina pipped Alex to second place whilst Leah had to contend with fourth place and hence finished sans silver wear. Meanwhile, Murray had done the business down in London all of which seemed to rekindle something of a glow that started in 2012 Olympic Games way down south last year. Notwithstanding the obvious ability of all the final competitors, the real delight was the strength in deep – as football commentators would say – in the rest of the field plus the strong results from the young-guns!
Here's a gallery of shots from the final – enjoy and see you next year! For the full breakdown of the rest of the BBC's, go to the BMC website here.