On Tuesday, February 21 Peter Beal, Daniel Woods, and Courtney Sanders held a Breakthrough Bouldering clinic at The Spot. The clinic was free for members and ended up running about twice as long as originally planned because, well, because the ins and outs of climbing are a pretty vast subject.
“Climbing is a marginal sport. The margin for error in every level of difficulty is very very slim. The difference is between making the job reasonable or unreasonable.”
~ Peter Beal
The clinic started off with introductions from Daniel, Courtney, and Peter, followed quickly by names and goals from the 8 participants and 3 Spot staff who attended. It turned out that most of the participants had been climbing anywhere from a few months to a few years, and the Spot staff and clinic instructors Daniel and Peter have all been climbing for between one to three decades. Courtney is the exception, as she’s only been climbing for 3 years but has already progressed to elite status with an entire bouldering World Cup season under her belt as well as several V11 sends.
“Have confidence in yourself. Try hard.”
~ Courtney Sanders
After intros Peter addressed one participant’s concern that she was unable to get out of her 4- spot plateau. He suggested that most climbers don’t think very clearly about what they are doing at any given moment. He said that if you watch most climbers you will see things they could be doing better that would help them get up a problem or route, and that examining all aspects of your own climbing can help you improve your own weaknesses and stack the odds in your favor. The closer you can get to perfect movement, Peter suggests, the easier the job will be.
All the pros mentioned the importance of other factors, like strength, technical ability, and training physical weaknesses as well as mental. Each had different opinions about the most important factors, and it was clear that a balance of all is necessary for optimum performance. Of course, Daniel made a point that is hard to refute:
“The most important thing for climbing hard is hand strength on rock.”
~ Daniel Woods
Considering some of the group’s climbing goals, Peter reminded everyone that factors such as season and weather could affect one’s climbing goals. For example, if a climber’s goal was to be strong enough to climb Gobot at Rocky Mountain National Park by the end of summer, the climber should consider that Gobot has a scary landing that is made safer by a big pile of snow and that a big pile of snow is more likely at the beginning of summer. Therefore, it might be more reasonable to make a goal to be strong enough to climb Gobot by the beginning of summer or by the beginning of next summer, when conditions are better for a safer experience. Courtney pointed out that goals come in many forms.
“Set little goals and long term goals. Even if the little goal is just to do a certain move on a problem with one hand position vs another.”
~ Courtney Sanders
As for competitions, Daniel and Courtney both said the biggest thing is to keep trying. You don’t always win, and sometimes you fail big time, but it is good experience for the future.
And for training? All agreed that different things work for different people, but it is important to work your weaknesses, whether physical or mental, and set goals so you keep progressing. Core was one of the main topics of discussion, with Peter asking the group what the term “core” really refers to, and everyone giving opinions on what core is and how it helps your climbing. Daniel’s perspective in particular was helpful:
“Everyone has to develop a static core and a dynamic core. The static core is when you need to keep tension. The dynamic core is for when you’re swinging around, and cutting your feet. You need both.”
~ Daniel Woods
The evening ended with a discussion about the importance of warming up followed by a comparison of different types of shoes and a walk around the gym to try different techniques for footwork and falling. Lots of valuable info was flying around, and I wasn’t able to record all of it, so make sure you stay tuned for future clinics from the Spot. After all, as Daniel said, everyone can stand to improve their own climbing and no matter how hard you climb you never stop learning.
“Take apart every assumption you have about climbing and examine it.”
~ Peter Beal
About the Instructors:
Peter Beal is the author of the popular Mountains and Water blog and also Bouldering: Movement, Tactics, and Problem Solving which can be purchased from The Spot front desk or online.
Daniel Woods and his wife Courtney Sanders are professional rock climbers.
Today we added a bunch of problems to all sides of the Font Boulder!
There are even some new slab problems. Also, tonight the Verde Burrito Truck will be parked outside of the Spot so you don’t even have to worry about what you’re getting for dinner after climbing. The truck is there already, so you can have your tacos, burrito, or other delicious Mexican food whenever you feel like it.
Finally, Daniel Woods, Peter Beal, and Courtney Sanders will be at the Spot at 6 pm to give a talk on Breakthrough Bouldering. This clinic is free for members and gym daypass holders. 6-7:30, and show up early to be sure you get a seat!
The comp last night was pretty ridiculous. A strong men’s field showed up, including Matt Wilder, Colin Bauer, Alex Manikowski, Tyler Haack, Alex Johnson, Ian Dory, Mike Auldridge, Andre DiFelice, and Daniel Woods. The women’s category was even more of a battle, with Tiffany Hensley, The Youngwerth Twins, Courtney Sanders, Kelly McBride, Stephanie Marvez, Mercedes Pollmeier, Courtney Behnke, Spot Women’s Team members including Sarah Heath and Emily Lewellen, and a ton of strong female youth competitors to boot. In fact, 6 kids from the youth comp were in the running to qualify for women’s finals (though only two, 12 year old Team ABC member Margo Hayes, and The Spot’s own Tika Anderson, competed). Megan Mascarenas, a 13 year old from Colorado Springs, actually won the open category points-wise, though she had to go home before finals.
Because this is the Gladiator Finals, we knew the finals problems would have to be of truly epic proportions. Both problems started on a far side of the wall (men’s to the left, women’s to the right) and climbed across the Beach towards the middle prow where they both ended. The women’s problem had 31 scored moves on it, and the men’s had something like 24. They were so long that if they’d gone straight up, each problem would have warranted several clips. The idea was to make the problem in sections, each section the competitors would have to test a different set of skills. The men’s problem started off with some technical mantle moves, then went through a few powerful downclimb/swing moves before entering a powerful crimp section. From there were some large, fun campus moves on big Atomik pockets before the final compression/dynamic finish. The women’s problem started off with some campusy moves on a sloper and a jug before a mantle/technical section to a sideways mini-dyno. From there was a powerful undercling cross and sloper downclimb to another power-sapping pinch section. After a heel-hook drop down onto the blocky jug, there were several tensiony moves leading to a large cross off crimps and a slopey match at the top. Epic.
Tika Anderson came out first. This was her first time competing in a SBS Open Final, though she qualified last comp but didn’t make it back in time to compete. Tika gave a good showing on the problem, easily making the mantle and jump moves, then falling a few moves later on a slopey downclimb section. The jump move had aggravated an existing shoulder injury, so Tika retired from the competition in hopes of being healed in time for Nationals next month.
Kelly McBride came out second. Kelly’s only previous open finals experience was at the Spot several years ago, but she bravely stepped up and climbed several moves past Tika’s high point to the large orange Climb-it jug that marked the 2/3rds point of the problem. With both hands and a heel on the jug Kelly took a short rest, but the previous 20 moves had sapped her strength and she fell off moving off the jug toward the red crimp pinch.
Courtney Sanders climbed next. Courtney has only been climbing for a few years, and this was her first time qualifying for a SBS Open Final. She and Jesse Youngwerth came into finals tied for 3rd, and Courtney climbed first. She gave a strong showing, and after working through the mini-dyno and downclimb, she crossed the pinches and fell trying to drop down on the orange jug. Her second go ended early on the slopey downclimb. Because she had one hand on the jug and Kelly had matched it, the standings as of Courtney’s go were Kelly, Courtney, Tika.
Jesse Youngwerth powered past the previous highpoints with apparent ease, falling 4 moves higher (and only 6 moves from the top) on a powerful crimp gaston to crimp undercling move. Jesse didn’t seem tired when she got to the move, but it required pulling a right hand crimp gaston all the way across your body to catch a crimp undercling far out to the left, and Jesse couldn’t quite summon the reach to hit the hold without throwing. After climbing back to the right a couple of times, Jesse finally went for the move and hit the hold, but not well enough to stick it. Her try had taken her entire 3 minutes, and, with her new highpoint, her turn was up.
12 year old Margo Hayes of Team ABC came out for her first time competing in an adult open final, and the crowd went wild when she started to climb. Margo qualified tied for first with Tiffany Hensley, and on the final she was truly impressive, cranking hard through the dyno, the downclimb, the pinches, the jug, and the prow until she’d reached Jesse’s highpoint on the crimp gaston. Like Jesse, she was unable to static the move out left to the undercling, and after a few seconds tried a big throw and barely tagged the hold before falling to the mat. Before her time ran out Margo quickly jumped back on the wall, and, looking a little more tired than before but trying hard, climbed back to her highpoint. She fell again on the move out left, leaving her tied for 1st with Jesse (though after countbacks she was in first place). The crowd gave her a resounding applause for her efforts.
Last but not least, comp veteran Tiffany Hensley came out and tried her luck. After an unexpected fall early on the problem on her first try, Tiffany got back on the problem and climbed to Jesse and Margo’s highpoint. She, too, had trouble with the move to the undercling, and after a moment’s hesitation, she did the throw and stuck the hold with two fingers before sagging out and falling to the mats. It was a close call, but the judges agreed that Tiffany had exhibited some control of the hold and therefore she edged out Margo and Jesse for 1st place.
1. Tiffany Hensley
2. Margo Hayes
3. Jesse Youngwerth
4. Kelly McBride
5. Courtney Sanders
6. Tika Anderson
Right after the comp ended, several of the female competitors got back on the problem to climb to the finish. Nobody sent, but coming in from various starting points Margo, Jesse, Kelly, and Courtney all did the top moves of the problem and climbed to the finish jug.
Long time climber and competitor, Boulder local, and Team ABC coach Mike Auldridge came out first for the men after barely edging out Colin Bauer and Matt Wilder for the 6th spot in finals. Mike gave a great showing on the technical start mantle and powerful drop down, but he was defeated by the technical and tensiony crimp section.
Ian Dory climbed next, though he and Andre DiFelice came into finals tied for 4th place. Ian got a little farther than Mike did on the tensiony crimps, but he was unable to make his way to the Atomik pocket traverse and took his highpoint in the crimps.
Andre DiFelice only competes occasionally, but he always manages a strong showing, and this time was no different. Unfortunately, he, too, fell on the crimp section, at the same place as Auldridge, but, because he qualified higher, he ended up just ahead in the standings.
Recent Denver transplant Alex Johnson (aka “The Other Alex Johnson), came in 3rd in qualifiers and looked great on the final until, of course, the crimp section. The moves on the small blue Teknik and E-Grips crimps threw him off, putting him just behind Ian in 2nd place.
Powerful climber Alex Manikowski was the only one besides Daniel Woods to climb O9 in the main competition. Alex climbed the problem by dynoing from the new E-Grips bubble wrap sloper to the top of the wall–skipping the intended sequence in an impressive display of power and pinch strength. Finals didn’t go quite as well for him, with problems getting into the crimp section that landed him behind Auldridge in the standings.
Finally, Daniel Woods came out and had his go. In an awesome display of power, Daniel hung on through the tension crimps and stuck the mini-dyno to the first of the Atomik pockets. He swung through the traverse, deadpointed the drop-down pocket, and stuck the compression sloper up the prow. Only one move remained, a pogo to the E-Grips hueco finish off the right hand sloper, a left hand crimp, and a slopey right foot, and Daniel crushed it. He swung his leg down, he swung his leg up, he dynoed, and he barely barely stuck the hueco. The crowd went crazy as he worked his way into control of the hueco and made the problem’s only ascent.
1. Daniel Woods
2. Ian Dory
3. Alex Johnson
4. Andre DiFelice
5. Mike Auldridge
6. Alex Manikowski
Full results, photos, and video to come, so stay tuned!
The setters all attended semifinals so we could get a good feel for how the competitors were climbing and make sure we didn’t need to make any tweaks to the difficulty of the finals problems. I brought the little Flip camera my mom gave me for my birthday and shot some video of various people climbing various problems. This video is of the DRCC Women’s Semifinals problems (though the first two are non-DRCC cause we didn’t have enough holds). Most of the women who competed are in it, though I missed Audrey Sniezek and Kristen Felix–sorry girls! The edit is pretty rough cause I didn’t have a ton of time, and I decided that comp background noises would give you a better feel for how things were going than a techno track would, so the original noise is in all the clips. I’ll put a guys one together when I have time. Enjoy!