Friday, March 23, 2012

Vertical Endeavors No Holds Barred 2012

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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Bouldering Nationals

Overall, from fit to finish, I felt pretty good this weekend. I could tell right when I landed that I was at a significant disadvantage due to the change in altitude - I was winded walking off the plane. I tried my friend’s trick of doing some sprints immediately after landing, but it is hard to tell if it helped. I proceeded to follow a high water and lower protein diet for the day preceding the comp to help my body acclimate to the altitude.

Quali 1                                                           Huey Photography
The comp itself was following a new format, as there have been many complaints about the Hot Holds system that is was used for the past three years and is main format for IFSC Bouldering Comps.  USA Climbing came to a conclusion that for their comps the IFSC format did not differentiate scores well enough and believed that the scoring resulted in unfair placements. As a competitor I agree with USA Climbing about the clumping of scores but if the point of our Nationals is to determine the US Team, which will then go onward to compete at IFSC events, then we should be selecting based upon those that score best in the IFSC format.  It only makes sense for us to test our athletes on the IFSC format because that will be what they will be scored against in the coming months.  However, the IFSC format runs almost seamlessly at all events due to the fact that the organization has years of experience of setting problems for this format. The IFSC format works well when the problem set is tailored specifically for it, meaning for a comp to be run in the IFSC format you need people that are experienced at setting for such a format.  Some of our US setters have taken the IFSC Setting Course, however it will take many more US setters with this certification if the US plans on using the IFSC format for our Nationals.

Either way, I was excited to be scored on this format in quails because I was close to the top on a few problems and I am glad I received credit for that.  For the quails there were for 5 problems. The women climbed in the morning and men climbed in the afternoon. There was not a live feed for quails because iso was rolling meaning that competitors were told to show up at the warm up area 30 minutes prior to their climb time.  As such climbers that climbed later in the day could view a live feed if there was one, prior to entering isolation. However, Alex David Johnson had a feed streaming on his blog for semi’s and finals. Louder Than 11 was there shooting but they were reserving their shots for a video highlight reel that was released a few days after Nationals.

My impression of the problems:

On quali 1:

 It was a slabby jumpstart to a one handed, sideways dyno. It took me three tries to stick the dyno as I fell my first attempt trying to stick it statically, which was surprisingly close.
Quali 1                                                           Huey Photography

Quali 1 (winding up for the dyno)                                                       Huey Photography
Quali 1                                                            Huey Photography
Quali 1 (after sticking the dyno)                        Huey Photography

On quali 2:

It was a steep, rounded arĂȘte that require one to navigate and compress on huge ball slopers and pinches. At the moment that my time began, I knew that these things needed brushing as there was black and white all over (this was something that ate into my time on almost all of the problems- next time I am going to make sure to get an early time). On my first attempt I read the sequence wrong but ended up in a good spot. I quickly revaluated the sequence and executed it correctly only to slide off one of the slopey balls (greasy) near the top. At this point I knew my sequence was right and I just had to motor through. On my last attempt, I got to the 2nd to last hold - I was sweaty and the holds were greasy up there. I slide off and after I stood up after falling I could not believe how winded I was.

Quali 2                         Huey Photography

Quali 3:

This was a steep sustained crimpfest. I seemed to lacked the power on the crimps and the general strength maneuver on these holds and moves. I think I have lost a tremendous amount of crimp strength because my nail bed separation injury of my fingers. This route combined big, steep gastonie shoulderie moves with 1 arm type of strengths. I sucked here. I read the sequence right but could not hold the moves and generate from some of these steep positions.

Quali 3                                                           Huey Photography

Quali 3                                                          Huey Photography

Quali 3                                                          Huey Photography

Quali 4:

This was a burly boulder problems. The problem incorporated an hard start that require one to squeeze an arĂȘte, make two hard moves to horrible slopers, toe hook, and then to swing one’s body in the opposite direction to a small foot. The problem required incredible shoulder, pec, and girdle strength. The slopers that I was swinging on had a subtle thumb catch which I tried to utilize. After sticking these two identical slopers that required incredible compression, I had to release the toe hook I had to swing my foot from the right, all the way to the left, stick a small, good foot and then generate laterally and upward to an undercling. Every time I would swing my foot over, I would lose tension at the very last second. My foot would landed on the hold at that exact time my hands and shoulders would fail.  I really believe that this route would have been much easier earlier in the day. I faired average on this route. I read and did everything right, but I would have appreciated better conditions on the problem because even with ample brushing the holds still felt moist.  In addition, the time that I spent brushing could have been better used for another attempt. The altitudes affected me so much that this act of brushing would cause me to become winded.

Quali 4 (setting the toe hook)           Huey Photography

Quali 4 (ready to relase the toe hook) Huey Photography

Quali 4                         Huey Photography

Quali 4 (after releasing the toehook)        Huey Photography

Quali 5:

I rocked this one - another technical problem like the first. Had to Popes Prow it up an arĂȘte and then balance on big feet across the slab to none holds. After traversing the slab one had to squat and down climb to the finish holds that were at the height as the start holds. This was a cool way to end the problem set and a great way to finish the comp.

Quali 5                                                           Huey Photography

Quali 5 (taking my time with my feet) Huey Photography

Quali 5 (the end hold were at the same vertical height as the start holds)   Huey Photography

Had I finished the 2nd problem, which I thing I could have, I would have likely been in finals. Instead, I finished 36th in the competition, which is a historic low, but the field of competitors was incredibly strong this year so my placement is still something to be proud of. Overall, I was happy with the comp considering what I have gone through in the past couple of months with Giardia and the nails, and either way I am more excited for Rope Nationals in a month as that is what most of my training is tailored towards.

I wanted to extend a special thanks to Dylan Huey of Huey Photography for providing the awesome shots as well as Ames Adventure Outfitters and FIVE TEN - without the help and support of these sponsors I would not have the quality gear that helps me to push my limits in the sport.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Youth Divisionals

This past weekend many of the kids from Hidden Peak competeted at the 2011 SCS Divisional Championship, held at Planet Rock in Ann Arbor Michigan.  Hidden Peak brought 12 climbers to the competition for both Speed and Sport disciplines.  For a few of the kids this was their first Divisionals and for others it was just another walk in the park.  Both Dave and did everything we could to keep the younger kids calm and composed in isolation as many of them were excited and were bouncing off the walks. 
On day one the day was broken up into a morning and afternoon session to help shorten wait times in isolation (in the old days isolation could last as long as 6 hours).  Most of our younger kids categories were in the morning and the older kids were in the afternoon.  Every category had their preview time and then each kid was brought out one at a time to climb their routes (two for the first day and 1 for the second day).  The first route typically is a warm up and then the second route is what separates the field. 
A few of our younger kids were eliminated on day one but many of them moved on to day two.  It is upsetting for the kids that did not make it to day 2 because all of the kids train so hard and really want to do well at these events.  Some of the kids made mental errors that cost them, others climbed flawlessly but got pumped out before they could get high enough to qualify for day two. 

On day two all of the kids climbed beautifully and all of them that qualified for day two made it to Nationals.  While warming up in isolation that morning all of the kids were extremely nervous as they knew that they needed to do really well if they wanted to move on to Nationals.  I had to make sure that they all were completely warmed up before heading out to climb as there was only one route for them to climb and it was hard!  They were given one shot (onsight) to climb as high as they could.  Many of the Peakers had exciting falls that made the crowd ooooo and aahhhh.  In the end all of the kids left Ann Arbor with a smile on their face as they all had good times and good climbs with friends and competitors alike. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Canmore Bouldering World Cup

The Canmore World Cup was this weekend boy was it a blast! This World Cup was for bouldering and it was the first World Cup to be held in Canada. When we flew in it was 35 degrees and raining - we hoped that the weather would turn for the better as the event was being held outside. Unfortunately the weather was even worse on Friday; it was 30 and snowing for almost all of the day. It was extra difficult to warm up in the iso area with these conditions. They brought us out one at a time in order of IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) ranking.  Because this was my first World Cup I had no ranking and I was placing near the end, and this was a distinct disadvantage as the holds were much more greasy after 40 people were climbing on them.

I was shocked at the problem set that we were given as most big comps have huge moves with tons of slopers and pinches. This set was more about 1 arming off ridiculously small crimps. On one of my problems I popped off one of those tiny crimps and gashed open my knuckle. I did not realize this until my judge told that I was dripping blood all over the place. I tried jamming chalk in this wound but it was bleeding like a sieve came real close to sending that problem but I had to go see the EMT before I got another good try on that problem. The EMT was not able to stop the bleeding so my finger was painfully gushing all over the place for the rest of my comp despite my use of chalk, superglue, and tape. Had I not been preoccupied with that finger I believe would have been a bit more focused for last few problems. However, the end of the comp was not what killed my score, it was the first few problems, and I think it had to do with the cold and me not be too psyched be dynoing around on crimps. Hudson and the other TEAM USA coaches said that I am more than strong enough to pull some of the same moves that these world champs pulled but I just was not trusting in my instincts.

But enough of that, it was a fun comp nonetheless and my very first World Cup. I received the bid kinda late for this comp so next time I hope that I have more time to prepare and train for this specific event.

Now I set my sights on what I do best - ROPE! 

Styched for more

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Canmore Bouldering World Cup

I received a call from USA Climbing just the other day with an invitation for the Canmore Bouldering World Cup.  This was a great way to be woken up.  This will be my first Bouldering World Cup and I am excited to be representing Team USA.  I competed on Team USA one time prior to this event and that was for the 2008 Continental Championships.  That competition was held in Montreal.   This World Cup is going to be held in Canmore, which is just outside of Calgary.  A few of my best climbing friends are flying out to compete and judge so I am styched!

The competition will be conducted in the bouldering World Cup format.  This entails hot holds and tops for the scoring - one gets credit for a problem if one reaches the bonus hold (usually marked within a box) or is one finishes the problem by gaining control of the finishing hold.  The number of falls it takes for one to reach the finishing hold and the bonus hold are taken into consideration when breaking ties and such.  Essentially whoever tops the most problems will score the highest. 

More to come with the results

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Trip to the Red

I was watching the weather at the Red for the past couple of weeks and when I saw that the temps were going to be in the 50s, I was sold.  It still was late February but I had just finished a hard week of school and wanted to get out to some rock.

I headed down with a few of my favorite friends in my Corolla - thank goodness the Loade's approach just got repaved.  On our first day, Saturday, we headed to the Loade, but after warming up on Tuna we decided to move onward to Driveby due to seepage at the Loade. 

At Driveby one of my friends was working Kaleidoscope and was oooo so close.  I decided to get on Supercharger (13d).  Boy is that route hard - this route does not allow you to take a hand off to chalk or shake.  Most of the moves were compression moves on sloppie underclings and sidepulls.  The temps were almost in the 60s at the peak of the day, and thus it seemed a little to hot that day for the route to go.  I would repeatedly grease off those slopers and it was getting me really frustrated.  At the end of the day I walked away with a vendetta for Supercharger once the temps were right.  Overall though Saturday was a productive day.

Sunday however, was a complete wash.  We decided to go the Loade, hoping to find that the routes had dried overnight, but instead they were even more wet.  We warmed up on Tuna and then I hopped on 40ounces (13a) but popped off due to wet holds.  I got back on but had to skip many holds because there were puddles.  I hope next time I am back I will put that route away because some of the moves were really unique.  I thought that White Mans (13c) would be dry but the crux holds were super damp and I came flying off of them.  Dam!  That route is hard to begin with but with wet holds it felt impossible.  All in all, I enjoyed myself because I was in good ole Kentucky for the weekend, maybe better climbing next time I am down.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

2011 Bouldering Nationals

Bouldering National this year were held in Boulder, CO.  This is typical for Nationals, however this year the event was not held in a gym - rather it was held in a warehouse where USA Climbing assembled the TEVA Games portable bouldering mega walls.  This made for the possibility of more spectators and less cramping. 

The walls were super tall - 20+ feet at certain points.  Many of the problems started with jump starts or stand starts so they were not that many moves considering the height of the walls.  The format was standard World Cup Bouldering format with 6 quali probs each having a middle hold "hot hold" and a finish hold "top" that were used to score each of the problems. 

The first problem was a jump start off a volume to another volume.  After sticking the starting holds the rest of the problem was relatively easy, utilizing compression on these egrips slopers.  My foot slipped off while sticking the finish so I had to give it a second try to send it. 

The second problem was a techie vertical problem with bad crimps, slopie slopers, and a definitive balance component.  I flashed and got styched for what was to come next.

The third problem was not my style - big fat pinches and super long wide moves.  I kept sliding off one of the big pinches just before the bonus hold because of my wet paws - I need to get that operation!  After a good four tries I decided to let that one rest and save some for the next problem. 

The fourth problem was a heart breaker! I was just missing the bonus hold three attempts in a row.  I this problem incorporated crimps with really big and powerful moves (difficult for me as I am more of a lightweight technical climber).  I was on the hold just next to the finish hold, but as I would fall into the bonus hold I was just not squeezing hard enough to stick it.  After this failure I was super frustrated because I knew that I need to get one of those bonus holds. 

Somehow I pulled myself together and flashed the 5th route. This problem had a cool jump start with a roof to pull and then a crimpy finish.  I felt SO good after this success and this left a good taste on my confidence pallet for the 6th route.

The 6th route had some cool toe hook sequence with a big move to pull a roof.  The top of the problem ended up spitting me off as I was really greasy and then when I had a foot pop I could not keep myself on.  I got credit for the bonus hold but I was right there staring at the finish hold only inches away from my face.

Unfortunately, the third and fourth problems really cost me as I missed semifinals by only a few spots.  As it turned out I would have made the cut had I stuck the finish hold on that final problem on my flash attempt, which I clearly think I may have been capable of had I not be bummed about prob 3 and 4.  I ended up placing 29th, which is not my best placement but every year is different so it is impossible to compare the result of one year to another. 

I was immensely disappointed by my failure to make semifinals as it has always been a dream of mine to go to the World Cup - despite this I set my sights toward SCS Rope Nationals April 1 and 2 in Boulder at Movement Rock Gym.