Winter is entrenched in Boulder. Several inches of snow fell through the night and several more are expected today. The Flatirons, normally clear from my kitchen window, are obscured by thick gray. Even Canyon City, home of the reliable winter destination, Shelf Road, appears mired in wet cold.
Fortunately for us spoiled Front Range climbers, the Boulder Rock Club offers the Boulder Climbing Series in the winter months. More than anything, the BCS provides motivation to stay in shape and train hard in the off season. This year, the BCS consisted of three comps. After each session everyone relaxes with free beer, pizza and a raffle – more on the raffle below. The season winner of each age group, determined by cumulative season score, receives a 6-month BRC membership.
Our Boulder crew was well represented throughout this year’s series. Lizz, Eli, Adam Neef and Ian all competed in at least one comp, while Ron, Tyler and I entered all three. Enjoy some pics, courtesy of Eli Powell, from Friday’s festivities.
For a comp, 20 routes are set, route 1 being the easiest and route 20 being the hardest. The harder a route, the more points it is worth. From my estimation, the route difficulties are broken down like this:
Routes 1-5: 5.7 to 5.9+
Routes 6-10: 5.10- to 5.10+
Routes 11-15: 5.11- to 5.11+
Routes 16-18: 5.12- to 5.12
Routes 19-20: 5.12+ to 5.13
Because most BRC members are between 5.10- to 5.11+ climbers, the majority of routes are concentrated in that range.
The BCS comps have a different feel than many others because of the all or nothing nature of any given climb. As soon as your feet leave the ground, you either send and get the points, or you don’t and get nothing. Slapping the top hold and peeling gets you a big, fat 0 and a pump you then have to deal with the rest of the night. Flashes are worth more than redpoints, which are in turn, worth more than toprope ascents. A climber only counts her top three scores.
My strategy throughout the season, which I would recommend to others, was to determine which three routes I had a chance at in a best case scenario and then go for the easiest of the three. This way, while I was completely fresh I was ticking off a score I would need in any case and getting off to a good start. Usually this meant beginning with route 16. Assuming I sent the first climb, I would take a short rest then climb the next route in line (route 17). If still on track at that point, I’d have two of the three scores needed for a complete sheet and still at least two full hours to get my last score. At that point I’d be safe to climb an easier route (route 15) to ensure points and still have plenty of time to rest for a fresh attempt at a harder route (route 18). If all goes well, I then have three quality scores and am free to flail all I want on the harder lines.
Throughout the season, I was impressed with the route setting. In each comp, routes neighboring in difficulty were of different styles, thus testing a variety of strengths and skills. For instance, in the last comp, route 15 had crimps and pockets with some balance-intensive moves and foot-matching, culminating in a distinct and tough crux. Route 16 consisted of small underclings and pumpy crimps up a slightly overhung wall. Route 17 started with powerful moves on big holds that led to core-intensive arete-hugging followed by a desperate set of crux moves to the top. Route 18 tested endurance up the meat of the severely overhung wall.
In any given comp, several climbers were bunched near the top. It seemed that maybe routes 18 were a bit too easy, while routes 19 were a bit too hard. However, these 4-5 people all probably climb within a letter grade of each other most days, so I understand why it is hard to separate them. This year, the comp organizers decided to move the kids and family comps to Saturday morning, instead of overlapping them with the adult individual comps. This resulted in shorter lines to get on routes, less congestion in the gym and an overall better atmosphere and more enjoyable experience. Bravo to the BRC, Kevin and other comp organizers and route setters (Jonathan Siegrist, Tony Yao, Brent, Patrick and others) for the 2010 series.
In each comp, I flashed routes 15-18. That was good enough to win the male 20-29 age group. I’m happy with the win, but what I’m really stoked about is that over the entire series, I zeroed in and climbed the routes within my range without any mistakes.
Aside from having a fun time with some competitive adrenaline, we made out like bandits in the raffles. Lizz won a pair of La Sportiva climbing shoes of her choice. Tyler won a Mamut tent. Ron won a slick base layer and a sexy manbag. I came out with a hangboard and a Mamut windbreaker. I think Adam Neef won a koozie or bottle opener or something. Way to go Adam!
It can be intimidating putting your climbing on display, especially if you feel out of shape or generally apprehensive about competing. But in the end, for $15, ($25 for non-BRC members) you can have an intense night of climbing, beer and pizza and a very good chance of winning a great raffle prize. Why would you not do it? Hopefully we’ll see you next year!
Thanks a bunch to Eli Powell for some great photos!