ROCfest '15 Report

On the 7th and 8th of February Rock Over Climbing hosted it’s most ambitious project yet, the ROCfest ’15.

A competition unlike any before it, the ROCfest was carefully designed to push the boundaries of what we all expect from a bouldering competition. Competitors from every background were all thrown in to climb together, at the same time, in one of 3 rounds. This meant that climbers aged 5 were able to climb next to the country’s best competitors, and some of the top climbers in the world too. We even combined ParaClimbing into the same format – 25 problems over 2 ½ hours – this hasn’t even been attempted before!

Molly Thompson-Smith in the Finals, 121 kb
Molly Thompson-Smith in the Finals
© Josh Johnston/ Maryam Al-Jeddal

With so many different categories all competing at once we knew we’d set ourselves a difficult task – how to ensure everyone has a good time, while giving them all the right range of climbs suitable for their category, and enough time to do them all! Luckily, we had a great amount of experience from previous ROCfest competitions, and a bit of help from the GB ParaClimbing team.

We then set about preparing the competition – another year’s worth of work was poured into every detail, where we would put each climb, what grade they would all be, how to light the finals, what music to play, logo designs, staff plans and more. Everything had to be ready for the big weekend. One of our main concerns was that Manchester had never had a 2-day climbing competition, the big question on our minds: “Would they come?”

The answer was a resounding yes! Over 700 people piled in through our doors on Saturday to compete or spectate, and with good reason. Not only had we set nearly 100 problems for the weekend, well over 60 just for qualifying, we also added some amazing raffle activities. Competitors and spectators were invited to try our Leap of Faith, our Table Traverse and our range of Dyno’s, each one earning them a raffle ticket for some incredible prizes from our sponsors.

A Women's Finalist in action
© Josh Johnston/ Maryam Al-Jeddal

Back in 2014 we hosted the ROCfest 5.0, the last one we’d run as a one-day event, and learned a few things from our competitors. The main thing people suggested were judged routes – this way there would be fewer upsets and absolutely no question who was on better form on the day. We took this advice on board, and decided to combine judging with the uniqueness of the ROCfest – we got top British climbers and some lovely volunteers to not only judge 15 routes per round, but also to offer mentoring and encouragement to all the young climbers who came. This advice and encouragement continued throughout the entire competition, in all the qualifying session and finals. Climbers like Shauna Coxsey, Michaela Tracey, Molly Thompson-Smith, Dave Barrans, Tom Newman, Jon Partridge all took time out of their own preparations to help the young aspirant climbers.

Shauna Coxsey was a special feature for the ROCfest. Not only did the world No.2 give us a display of her climbing skills & mentor younger climbers, she also hosted a talk on Saturday evening about her journey with climbing. This proved immensely popular, and over 250 people stayed to hear her story.

On the Sunday we opened our doors, wondering to ourselves if many people had stayed to experience the Grand Finals we were putting on for them. We had lights, sound, amazing routes from world renowned setter Jamie Cassidy and Britain’s manliest man Jason Pickles. This was what we had been worried about during the entire planning process – would many people want to give up their Sunday to watch what we had to show them?

Ned Feehally in the Men's Final, 99 kb
Ned Feehally in the Men's Final
© Josh Johnston/ Maryam Al-Jeddal

It turns out we had nothing to worry about, in fact we should have been more concerned about managing to fit everyone in to watch! Over 300 people came to watch the 98 competitors on Sunday, some from Saturday and quite a few who hadn’t competed at all just came down to watch it all.

Getting back to how the ROCfest is an experience like no other, we hosted Junior finals from age 8 upwards alongside the age 14/15 and adult semi-finals. Finals and semi-finals were all run in a World Cup style – Semi-finals had 4 problems for the adults and 3 for the 14/15 year old juniors all completed in 5 minutes flat. That meant that after 5 minutes of attempts, if the climber didn’t make it to the top of the climb then they have to get off the wall. Then for the finals the junior categories 1 (age 14/15), 2 (age 12/13), 3 (age 10/11) and 4 (age 8/9) all had 3 problems, and adults had 4 problems again, to complete with 4+ minutes. This means that provided the climber pulls on to the start of the climb before the timer hits 0 they have as long as they want for that last go.

After the Semi-Finals had been completed we had a short interval while the route-setters changed over to the Final problems, assisted by some of our staff and two fantastic volunteers – Joe Swales and Jamie Swales. The problems went up in great time and the Finals were ready.

First out were the 14/15 year-old finalists. The 300+ strong crowd supported them amazingly, with Tom Stewart encouraging them as always, as they went through each problem, riling them up to succeed. The young girls all drew level, flashing all 3 of their problems. Normally we’d go to countback, but the crowd weren’t about to let that happen. After a short discussion, the 14/15 year old women would go in to a “Super-final” to decide the winner. The challenge? To climb one of the men’s problems, with one hold missing. If they reached the same point, the fastest competitor would be the winner.  Alexia Basch sprinted up the problem to take victory in just 32 seconds with Izzie Hough also making the top, slightly slower in 2nd place.

ROCfest '15, 128 kb
ROCfest '15
© Josh Johnston/ Maryam Al-Jeddal

For the boys it we a close fought affair between Kieran Forrest and Joe Czubkowski, each topping all three problems. Joe took the lead by flashing each one, Kieran a close second with just one attempt separating them. The talent emerging from the British climbing scene is fantastic, and the ROCfest always serves as a great display of this.

It was then time for the Adult Finals – this was the main event, the headline of the whole weekend. Dave Barrans, Tom Newman, Ned Feehally, Nathan Phillips, Matt Cousins and James Garden all made it through the hard Men’s Semi-Finals to reset the score for the finals. Shauna Coxsey, Diane Merrick, Charlotte Garden, Molly Thompson-Smith, Tara Hayes and Flo Tilley made it through the Women’s Semi-Finals – also nails!

The Finals began and the crowd exploded. Shauna clearly dominated the Women’s event, and the competition became a tense race for 2nd. In the Men’s there was no clear superior, but experienced competitor Dave Barrans and the strong youth that is Nathan Phillips started to break away from the others. Nathan put on a strong performance, getting the furthest on the only unclimbed problem! But Dave’s experience and determination showed, especially on Problem 4, where he held the wild swing that no one else managed and took the title, earning himself £600 in the process. Tom Newman worked hard to close the gap, and managed to take 2nd place, relegating Nathan down to 3rd.

In the Women’s fight for 2nd place Molly Thompson-Smith managed to climb two problems in one less go than Charlotte Garden, narrowly taking the prize. Charlotte put on a strong climb throughout the comp, reaching more bonus holds than the others apart from Shauna, but in the end it was Tops that pushed her into 3rd place.

ROCfest '15 winners, 147 kb
ROCfest '15 winners
© Josh Johnston/ Maryam Al-Jeddal

After the Finals were over the Podium was brought out in a Flying Ducks formation (mirroring the fantastically set finals problems) and the winners were announced. Amazing prizes from our fantastic sponsors DMM, Alpkit and Beyond Hope (ABK, Evolv, Metolius) were given out along with prize money and clothing from Rock Over Climbing, with some tasty bars from Battle Oats and Chia Charge.

And then it was time to leave. We had done it, pulled off Manchester’s first two day climbing event, mixed Paraclimbing categories with all the others for the first time (probably in the world) and hosted a full junior finals right alongside a full adult finals. What an event!

Huge thanks go out to all those involved in the event: Our staff, judges, volunteers, sponsors (DMM, Alpkit, Beyond Hope, Battle Oats, Chia Charge), routesetters and over 900 people that turned up over the weekend.

Full results can be found here.


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