Let’s face it- all sports are competitive. Even climbing.
If you’re anything like me you’ll have all your completed routes ticked off in your crag guidebooks, spend your time working to achieve personal bests and be striving to keep up with your climbing buddies. So on one Sunny Saturday afternoon sitting at the bottom of the cliffs chatting away with our group the local bouldering competition was brought up. Now, I think its pretty fair to say there are firmly two camps within our friendship group. Those who believe that climbing is about connecting with the outdoors and that, although it is a competitive sport, they don’t want to merge this experience with the stress of competing in a larger scale (mainly indoor) environment, and then there is the second group who were pretty animated about the whole competition situation. To them the local bouldering comp is a chance to meet other climbers, have a day climbing with people who were also passionate about the sport and to put a gauge on where their ability stands. They believed that everyone should enter competitions whenever they could, particularly someone who was new to a country and sport like me. The excitement was contagious so, naïvely, I trundled off too my gym and signed myself up for the bouldering competition that was taking place two weeks later.
There are, I think, a couple of things I should tell you. One, I’ve been climbing a grand total of about three months and, two, the competition was actually a state competition! I’m sure there are some hardcore enthusiasts out there who would say I shouldn’t have been allowed to enter (I still had to qualify to get a position) and when I think back had I known what I was getting myself in for I probably wouldn’t have. BUT… The harder we push ourselves the better we get and on Sunday 3rd August at 7.30am I obediently arrived to register my position.
Maybe it was because it was my first comp or maybe I’m just that type of person, but the waiting around made me nervous, incredibly nervous. Once it started though the competition went by in a second. Three hours of climbing felt like ten minutes. I laughed at my own lack of ability, discussed tactics with anyone I could find who looked willing to talk, openly awed at a ten year olds ability to climb V10s. .. It was great fun. Where did I come? Second from last in the rankings, but I qualified which considering there were seven people who didn’t I think thats ok.
After my first comp I think its fair to say I sit between the two camps my friends pitched to me at the beginning. I cherish the time I’ve spent climbing outside and I think that’s what most of us love about the sport, but throwing myself into the deep end has made a difference to the way I climb. I’ve seen people significantly better than me tackle a route in a more efficient, dynamic way and I’ve tried to learn from that. If you like the idea of a competition I’d say don’t hold back, give it a go, I bet like me you’ll be surprised at how rewarding the situation can be.
The best way to find out more about competitions in your area is to talk to your local climbing gym. They’ll be active in your community and should be able to point you in the right direction. Otherwise google your local climbing federation and they’ll have a list of the annual comps… GOOD LUCK!