Home > Uncategorized > The Spot Classic and Competition Climbing

The Spot Classic and Competition Climbing

The Spot Classic was, as always, an awesome show! As usual with comps at The Spot, Avery and Cosmo’s brought the party and this city’s ridiculously strong climbers brought the show. Finals was a blast. Jeff McCallister edged out a strong men’s field for first place in Finals while Matt Fultz and Brett Walker got second and third. Ella Von Dungen brought it home for the women with Natalia Grossman taking second and Ashley Fisher taking third.

As for the morning USAC sessions, we were pleased to see kids in Youth C and D (that’s competitors up to age 13) sending all the way up through O3! As I touched on in the last post, setting for diverse age groups and body types is a tall task. That challenge is further amplified when we’re talking about kids a third of the age and height of the adults who compete on the same boulders in the evening. There were 50 climbs in the gym set for The Classic. Ten climbs in each of five categories: youth, recreation, intermediate, advanced, and open. This means that some of the smallest and youngest competitors were capable of sending 43/50 climbs in the gym! Unreal. From a setting perspective, we were definitely thrilled.

We also had two awesome guest setters. Shout out to Jason Brownlee and Blayke Huffman for bringing some of their spice to the gym. It was a pleasure working with them and we hope to see their faces again soon.

Creating boulders for competitions is a bit different than creating boulders for the traditional commercial setting. For starters, we strip the entire gym and replace it with a total of 50 boulders. (Sometimes there’s close to 50 on the beach alone!) This means that the problems that are on the wall are more spread out in order to be easily accessible to a gym full of climbers all at once. Giving the boulders a little extra room to breathe means that their appearance and aesthetic qualities are of a bit more importance than normal. Not unlike a fancy chef presenting a dish that pleases the eyes as much as the palate, we aim to set boulders that look as fun and enticing as they are to actually climb.

Additionally, from a logistics standpoint, there is a lot more attention to detail than normal. Obviously, we don’t have enough space for 50 completely stand alone problems, so there is inevitably some mingling of routes. What we can do to mitigate potential traffic jams is make sure there’s a good spread of easy and hard boulders to facilitate a diverse climbing base. If a youth boulder crosses an open boulder we’ll probably be okay. Chances are the youth climber isn’t sending five spot (though not guaranteed in this town) and the strong men and women trying to make finals won’t be hopping on a 10-foot-tall youth climb. All things considered, both the early USAC sessions and the adult evening session went smoothly. A success for us!

Another one of our priorities in competition setting is ensuring that each division is made up of a range of climbing styles. It’s been said that those who perform best in climbing comps aren’t necessarily the strongest climber, but rather the climber with the fewest weaknesses. This is because a good routesetting staff is trying to make sure that there are movements of all types and a variety of hold styles within the ten climbs. From pinches and dynos to crimps and technical footwork, our ideal set is one full of diversity. Not to say that diverse climbs aren’t a goal of ours all the time, just that it is especially important, in a competition where each climber is only scored on five climbs, to make sure someone can’t just crimp their way into finals.

As much as aesthetics and diversity matter though, we can’t forget one thing: this is a competition with spectators who paid to come watch! That means we want to put on a show! Both men and women’s final boulders featured an all-points-off dyno, something much more unique to gym climbing than outdoor climbing. Although dynamic movement and big throws certainly exist outdoors, they are much more prevalent in indoor climbing and especially bouldering.

As much as some people can probably stand to see it, climbing is becoming a spectator sport more and more each day. It’s exciting, dramatic, powerful, and intense watching someone throw themselves through space with only their hands capable of reeling their momentum back towards the wall. Even at the IFSC World Championships last week we saw a dyno, or at least a dynamic gymnastics style movement, in all four boulders in men’s finals. In fact, there was not a single fall in men’s finals from a static movement where both feet were on the wall. It’s probably safe to assume that this powerful, dynamic trend in competition routesetting is in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. Spectator sports need, well, spectators. And a non-climber can relate to the difficulty of seeing a human being hurling themselves through time and space much more easily than they can to seeing someone stand on tiny bits of plastic or pulling hard on credit card crimps.

It’s worth noting that the Olympic format has athletes competing in three styles of competition climbing: speed, lead, and bouldering. Dynos are a part of climbing, so if the aim really is to find the best all-around climber than Olympic routesetters will likely want to test climbers on as many styles of movement as possible, including jumps and crazy power moves. It’s hard to deny that bouldering as a climbing style caters to low percentage dyno moves more so than lead climbing can. After a failure in bouldering, a climber can simply step up and try again, whereas in lead climbing it would mean that their attempt is over and that’s as far as they get on the scorecard. Like it or not this has been where competition bouldering has been heading, and it doesn’t show signs of letting up. I may be getting a bit off topic, but we were talking about competition climbing after all, right?

Anyway, The Classic was an all-around awesome event. If there’s one thing we know how to do at The Spot it is throw an awesome party. And speaking of awesome parties, I would be remiss not to mention that the single coolest climbing competition probably in the entire world is happening NEXT MONTH and you should be there. I’m talking Psychedelia, baby! It’s only a month away. On October 20th we will be hosting our annual blacklight climbing competition. If you haven’t been, you need to. This isn’t just a climbing competition, it’s an experience. The tape art, the glowing climbing holds, the rad costumes… oh, and did I mention… the Avery BEER! The theme this year is Welcome to the Jungle so get your costumes ready! If you need some insight into what works well under blacklight and what doesn’t check out Jackie’s always popular comprehensive Psychedelia guide. The environment is insane, the climbs are hilarious and unique (they generally feature hanging barrels, coffins, rope swings, you name it), and the Hunter Damiani tape art is an absolute can’t miss. I hope you’re here for your sake, it’s an experience you really don’t want to miss.

And as always, we want to hear from you. How was your Spot Classic experience? Let us know in the comments what you thought about the climbs, the flow, the finals, whatever. You can expect Psychedelia to feature some more creative climbs and fun setting. What features do you want to see this year? (Tarzan rope swing, anyone?) We hope to see you there!

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