Tonight I took my camera along to the third and final round of the Winter Warmer Bouldering competition at Pulse Climbing.
It was awesome to see so many people taking part. High school girls floated up steep climbs effortlessly. Parents figured that if they had to take the kids to the gym, they may as well compete too. Regular gym-goers patiently weaved through the crowds to quietly tick off hard climb after hard climb.
As the competition kicked off, I counted at least 3 people sporting all-important bouldering beanies. I don’t spend a lot of time bouldering, but as an outsider, I understand that these woolen hats are a source of a raw power that the climber can draw upon during hard moves. Those without beanies relied on the power of their lucky undies and aggressively bright adventure tights.
The atmosphere in the gym was great. Climbers of all ages and ability levels encouraged one another. I’m sure there were a few intense rivalries that pushed people to dig deep. I’m sure there was a decent amount of smack talk flying around at times. On the whole, it felt like everyone was competing against their own personal limits, instead of trying to get one up on the person next to them.
The competition ran for 2 action packed hours. The staff at Pulse had painstakingly assigned a score to each climb on the bouldering wall. Harder climbs earned higher scores. When the time ran out, each climber tallied up the scores for the 8 hardest climbs they were able to complete. They dropped their scorecards off at the front desk and wandered outside to enjoy a good old-fashioned sausage sizzle.
I’ve never been drawn to competition climbing myself. As I watched to comp tonight, I wondered why that is.
Maybe its just stage fright, or fear of failing in front of a crowd. Maybe I enjoy the snobbery involved in telling kids who are stronger than me that I prefer to climb on ‘real rock’. Maybe indoor climbing has become my way of unwinding, slowing down and figuring things out for myself. It’s more of an internal thing than a competitive pursuit.
Despite all that, I could tell that all the climbers swarming up and down the walls at Pulse were having a great time.
Maybe next time I’ll put the camera down and pull my climbing shoes on instead.
If you’re a competition climber, comment below and tell me what I’m missing out on.