Articles - Beginner’s Guide: How to do better in climbing competitions
Jamie Maddison - Posted on 01 Feb 2011
Preparation is the Key (Be the Beta Voyeur)The first impulse of many on seeing a freshly reset bouldering wall, filled to the brim with sparkling new problems, is to run in and jump straight on the most appealing looking lines. RESIST this urge! The key to doing well in a comp lays in your preparation beforehand. So instead of jumping directly in at the deep-end, hang back and let other people attempt the problems first. If you pay careful attention you’ll soon be rewarded with the easy acquisition of a problem’s beta, beta that your co-competitors have had to fight tooth and nail to do blind onsight. Remember, when approaching a problem always give it a good hard looking over first before getting on it. Try to visualise the entire sequence in your head, even using miming hands if necessary. All this should help reduce faff and unpleasant surprise sequences halfway up and will help you conserve your strength ready for the remaining problems.
I also find it good practice to prep a climb before trying it. You never know what sweaty monkey has been on a line before you, so taking a brush to the holds beforehand is a good way of stopping the embarrassment (and loss of points) of greasing off a relatively easy move just because it wasn’t cleaned properly.
(Right - Boulderers using miming hands to figure out a particularly tricky sequence. Photo: Jamie Maddison)
Rest Time (So Time your Rests)If a competition is running for four hours then it makes no sense not to use every single minute of that time! It is absolutely without reason to try and rush through all the problems in 40 minutes flat, pumping yourself into complete and utter failure in the process. Take your time and be patient. Most importantly, get yourself a stopwatch and use it to strictly monitor your rest periods and don’t jump on a problem until your self-allocated rest period has elapsed.
All Problems are Equal (But Some are More Equal than Others)More often than not climbing competitions use a scale whereby a certain number of points are awarded if a problem is climbed on its 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th+ go. What this means is that there is no actual differentiation between problems of different difficulties, i.e. you’ll be awarded the same amount of points whether the problem you flashed was a 5+ or a 7B. Consequently this requires some clever thinking about one's own abilities: if you know you get pumped to an end game state quite quickly then it may be a good idea to get all the easier problems out of the way first before tackling the big boys. If, on the other hand, you're able to climb Font 6B till the cows come home then you may want to jump on the harder problems earlier on, when you're fresh and have the greatest likelihood of being able to send them. Whatever order you choose to tackle the problems in, make sure you don't miss out on a single easy climb as picking up an extra 10 points can make all the difference in a close competition.
Give Everything a Try (And if you don’t let go you won’t fall off)Another frequent difficulty of those new to competitions is to internally classify certain looking problems as ‘above-my-grade’ and because of this consequently avoid giving them a proper go. Try to refrain from this sort of behaviour, as many lines that look difficult on first appearances may turn out to be not too bad once you're actually on them. If you start skipping out problems altogether then you're only reducing the available pool of points that you could potentially acquire.
Similarly, when at a wall it can be quite noticeable sometimes that you see a strong climber going well on a problem only for them to falter right at the last moment. They may get a sequence wrong, or don't quite catch the hold right but whatever happens, doubts enter their head, the will to carry on visibly drains out of them, and ultimately they give in. Whereas people who often do well in competitions (and climbing in general) by and large avoid this mentality, or are so insanely strong it doesn't matter! They are ones who often dig deepest, summon up every last reserve of strength and willpower and don’t stop until they’re either at the top or flying backward toward the mats. Try to be this person (although that's much more easily said then done) as those few extra points grabbed by a sheer blunt-headed unwillingness to quit will be the ones that separate you from the rest of the pack.
(Right - A BUCS climber not giving up and going for glory on the final few holds after an exhausting previous sequence. Photo: Jamie Maddison)