British Bouldering Championships 2019 - Report

Last weekend the 2019 La Sportiva BMC British Bouldering Championships, supported by Clif Bar, took place on Devonshire Green in Sheffield. The event attracted its highest number of entries ever, with 110 of Britain's best boulderers vying for the title of British Bouldering Champion. Nathan Phillips returned to defend his title in the men's event, while a new women's champion was to be crowned in the absence of 2018 champion Hannah Slaney.

Nathan Phillips: men's champion 2019.  © Pete Burnside
Nathan Phillips: men's champion 2019.
© Pete Burnside

The top 20 athletes from the qualifying round on Saturday reached semi-finals on Sunday morning, where a more complex round of boulders decided the top 6 climbers to progress to finals. The semi-finals and finals were livestreamed on BBC Sport online and on Red Button for the second year running.

The men's final line-up consisted of (in qualifying order): Nathan Phillips, Billy Ridal, Jim Pope, Matt Varela-Christie, Dave Barrans and Max Milne.

Women's final: Natalie Berry, Holly Toothill, Rhoslyn Frugtniet, Jen Wood, Hannah Smith and Imogen Horrocks.

Dave Barrans climbs to 2nd place.  © Pete Burnside
Dave Barrans climbs to 2nd place.
© Pete Burnside

A packed crowd of spectators gathered on Devonshire Green in blazing sunshine to watch the finals. The routesetters didn't hold back in creating some seriously gymnastic problems which tested the climbers and thrilled the crowd. Dynamic was the operative word for the boulders in both categories.

Reigning champion Nathan Phillips topped the more technical first boulder on his second attempt, while Jim Pope required just one attempt more. Dave Barrans topped in an impressive 6 attempts.

photo
Jim Pope flys to 3rd place.
© Alex Messenger/@alexmessengerphoto

The second boulder involved a potential jamming move, which nobody managed to surpass, with only Nathan, Dave and Billy reaching the zone.

Billy Ridal gastons the crack.  © Alex Messenger/@alexmessengerphoto
Billy Ridal gastons the crack.
© Alex Messenger/@alexmessengerphoto

Boulder 3 involved some nasty slopey volumes and was topped by both Nathan (2 attempts) and Dave (3 attempts), with all climbers reaching the zone hold.

Matt Varela-Christie on the triple coordination dyno boulder.  © Pete Burnside
Matt Varela-Christie on the triple coordination dyno boulder.
© Pete Burnside

The final boulder was the real showstopper, though, with 3 double dynos in a row, including a funky toe-catch dyno to finish. Jim Pope quickly dispatched all three dynos in just two attempts, while Nathan and Aberdeen-based Max Milne topped on their third attempts. Clearly overjoyed by finishing his first senior final on a high, Max turned to the crowd and requested more noise!

Max Milne turns to the cheering crowd.  © Pete Burnside
Max Milne turns to the cheering crowd.
© Pete Burnside

With 3 tops in 7 attempts, Nathan retained his title of British Bouldering Champion. This was a fitting end to a successful year on the IFSC World Cup circuit, where he achieved multiple top-30 finishes, including a 14th place in Munich.

Men's podium: Barrans, Phillips and Pope.  © Pete Burnside
Men's podium: Barrans, Phillips and Pope.
© Pete Burnside

The women's final was equally exciting as the final boulder decided the podium. Boulder 1 was a tricky slab with a punchy dynamic move to start. It was topped by Jen Wood only, while Imogen Horrocks, Holly Toothill and Hannah Smith all reached the zone and came close to a top. Some heart-in-mouth slips from high up on the slab kept the crowd - and climbers - on edge.

Jen Wood on women's problem 2.  © Pete Burnside
Jen Wood on women's problem 2.
© Pete Burnside

The second boulder was a technical off-vertical number with some crimpy volumes and awkward body positions. Hannah Smith and Holly Toothill both smoothly flashed this, while Imogen Horrocks topped on her second attempt and Rhoslyn and Jen topped on their third goes.

photo
17 year-old Hannah Smith flashes B2.
© Alex Messenger/@alexmessengerphoto

Boulder 3 required a dynamic coordination toe-hook to start, then some powerful compression between triangular volumes and slopers. Holly, Hannah and Rhoslyn all reached the zone after figuring out the tricky start, with Hannah and Holly coming close to tops.

Rhoslyn Frugtniet on B3.  © Pete Burnside
Rhoslyn Frugtniet on B3.
© Pete Burnside

Natalie flashed the problem after catching the toe-hook and working out the physical top section, before catching the top hold and just managing to control the swing.

UKC Editor-in-Chief Natalie Berry manages a flash and the only top of B3.  © Pete Burnside
UKC Editor-in-Chief Natalie Berry manages a flash and the only top of B3.
© Pete Burnside

It all came down to the last boulder, which boasted a coordination dyno and a heartbreaker last move. Jen and Hannah were victims of the finishing hold - a pocket posing as a jug which was actually a shallow sloper - and were denied tops. Imogen was equally surprised by the nasty trick of the routesetters, but cleverly changed tack and managed to statically reach for the hold and match to earn her well-deserved second top.

photo
Imogen Horrocks falls victim to the last move of B4, before topping it next go.
© Alex Messenger/@alexmessengerphoto

Holly flashed the problem with impressive ease to take the win (unbeknown to her at this point!) The podium remained uncertain as Natalie neared the top on her third attempt. If she topped, she would take 2nd place. The heartbreaker move struck again, and she fell from the slopey pocket. With 15 seconds to go Natalie neared the finish again - potentially lining up to take 3rd - but rushed the last move and fell.

Holly Toothill - British women's Champion for 2019.  © Pete Burnside
Holly Toothill - British women's Champion for 2019.
© Pete Burnside

Despite Holly's excellent performance, the jumbled tops and attempts across the board were confusing and hadn't convinced her that she'd won after finishing her round. Even after being interviewed by Gaz Parry on the BBC, Holly didn't realise she'd won until she was congratulated by Hannah and Natalie back in isolation. Confused exchanges followed and the news sunk in: Holly Toothill, women's British Bouldering Champion 2019, aged just 17. She told UKC: 'It came as a bit of a surprise, this year there was a really strong field so it was nice to see that my training had paid off and I was able to win the competition.'

A rising star, Holly recently placed 11th at the European Boulder Cup in Innsbruck, Austria.

Women's podium: Horrocks, Toothill and Wood.  © Pete Burnside
Women's podium: Horrocks, Toothill and Wood.
© Pete Burnside

Once again the incredible depth of British competition bouldering talent was showcased at this annual event and results will count towards possible selection for the GB Bouldering Team.

Results

Men's:

1. Nathan Phillips
2. Dave Barrans
3. Jim Pope
4. Max Milne
5. Billy Ridal
6. Matt Varela-Christie

Women's:

1. Holly Toothill
2. Imogen Horrocks
3. Jen Wood
4. Hannah Smith
5. Natalie Berry
6. Rhoslyn Frugtniet

Watch the finals and semis replays below.


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Jim Pope
Sheffield

Jim Pope is a top British sport, trad and competition climber. He has climbed up to F8c+, had some scary moments on a couple of E9s and has been competing for several years.

His hardest ascents...

Jim's Athlete Page 15 posts 3 videos

Nathan Phillips is a top British boulderer who has competed for many years. He won a Youth World Cup in his late teens and in 2019 won the CWIF in Sheffield.

On rock he has flashed Font 8B and climbed multiple...

Nathan's Athlete Page 10 posts 2 videos



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