Vertical Endeavors, a Midwest based company has a few gyms in Minnesota and one gym, Warrenville in Chicagoland. For 11 years VE Warrenville has hosted a comp, The No Holds Barred. I have competed in all eleven years except for one year when I had an injury. VE has always put on an impressive competition with a mixed style of scoring. Due to the fact that the gym is mostly designed for rope climbing, the majority of the comp was based around routes. Qualifier rounds are redpoint based with the majority of points coming from rope climbs, but traditionally there are two boulder problems. VE Warrenville never fails to impress when it comes to the creativity of their routes and boulder problems, especially since many of their walls have natural features, which can make setting quite tricky.
This year the setters did not disappoint when it came to originality and diversity of their routes and boulder problems. Most of the routes were on vertical terrain and incorporated unique and technical sequences. I had not been technical routes like this for quite some time so these routes felt incredible refreshing. Although I did not fall on any of the qualifier routes, these vertical, technical routes showed me that climbing hard routes does not necessarily mean steep overhanging terrain. On many of these routes I sequences were forced and misreading a sequence meant demise for many climbers that misread the routes.
The boulder problems were equally stimulating. One of the two boulder problems incorporated a flat wall traverse. On this problem there was a cool Nicros volume that forced good five or six moves in order to move to the next hold. The other boulder problem incorporated large ball slopers with large dynamic moves connecting these balls. As I discovered the final few moves of the problem could be skipped with another large, dynamic move to the finish hold. However, I found out the hard way that the finish hold had a sharp lip to it and when I threw for the finish, the hold took a large chunk out of my finger.
The finals routes for all categories looked really cool and I wished that I could have climbed on them as well. One of the other men’s divisions had a finals route that strung together a series of smaller volumes that looked like it made for an awesome climb.
The Men’s Open finals route had a few interesting features that made me question what was the best way to climb it. The beginning of the route was simple enough – a series of slopers that made for a comfortable beginning. The route then traversed the lip of on overhang. On the far side of this traverse I found a stem rest that enabled me to eyeball the final 10 to 15 moves. From the stem rest I had trouble figuring out how to make the long reach to a set of Balls. Yes on this route there was a pair of balls hanging from the roof of the next sequence. These balls were about the size of my fist, they were made of hold material, but they were suspended from the roof by a 8 inch sling. I made a few attempts to reach them statically but eventually I realized that I needed to go more dynamically if I were to have any chance of making this transfer. I lunged over to these balls, made my next clip and then sprinted for the final section of the route. The last sections of all of VE’s finals routes are always an impressive V7 or above so I knew that I needed to tackle this next crux section aggressively. I turned the roof off of the balls and successfully made the next few moves without much difficulty. After hitting a large purple sloper I utilized a heel hook to my right on the lip of the overhang. Looking up I knew that these next two moves were the “business.” I decided that the best way to orient myself for the following move was to use my favorite “Monkey Paw” technique (similar to a meathook but with one’s hand facing away from one’s body). This position was to allow me to stand up off my heel hook, squeeze my shoulders and statically reach the next gastone without the risk of a barn door. After I flipped my hand to the “Monkey Paw” position my heel hook popped off. This popped put an incredible amount of torque on my hands and the swing nearly twisted me around facing the audience. With a roar I pulled it back in (to my own surprise) and then got ready to make the next move. As I was pushing upward to make this next move, again my heel popped and swung me all the way around facing the audience. I could no longer hold the swing. The orientation of my body when I fell, left me backward and upside down. Thankfully my awesome belay gave such a soft belay that when I swung into the wall, I only tapped my back, without any trauma. My entire side and ribs were rope-burned from fall but other than I was lowered to the ground with a huge smile on my face.
My final placement was 1st and I received some nice gear for such accomplishment. One of my good friends, Doug, climbed tremendously well at the comp and fittingly took 2nd place. Once again VE put on a competition that drew well over 200 people, not to mention all of the parents and spectators that were there to support their climbers. All categories from beginner to masters had a blast. Some of the kids that I help coach were competing there as well. I am glad these kids were there to competition experience and the kids were fortunate that VE was cognizant of height issues when setting routes and boulder problems. Overall the competition ran smoothly, with no delays and plenty of intercomp entertainment.
I would like to give a big thanks to Five Ten and Ames Adventure Outfitters (distributors of Marmot, Osprey, Beal, and Liberty Bottles) - these companies help to outfit me with the best shoes and technical apparel on the market and these sponsors were generous enough to donate prizes for all of the categories.