Winning 2 silver medals in lead and bouldering at the 2016 World Youth Championship (WYC) was an incredible experience for me! It wasn't my success at the event that fueled my emotions, but the journey that lead me to standing on the podium- twice. My road back to podium at a WYC event has been a pretty rocky one, and so many things went through my mind as I stood there glancing out at cheering friends from all around the world and my US Team family. Here is a little background information:
In early 2015, an unexpected emergency completely changed my world, and priorities. Taking care of my mom came 1st, myself 2nd, school 3rd, and climbing/training slipped to 4th (after sharing the 1st place position for most of my life). Surprisingly, I was OK with that. I felt very little stress when I climbed throughout the year, regardless of the event. I think I was just appreciative to have all of the things that I loved most still in my life. I ended 2015 eager to start back training hard and focusing on my climbing goals.
Three months into 2016, it became painfully obvious that something was seriously wrong with my back. I was forced to stop climbing. After weeks of doctor appointments, medical exams, and misdiagnoses, I was told that it was highly unlikely that I would ever be able to return to competition climbing. That was one of the worst days of my life....... For several weeks we searched for definitive answers and finally uncovered the root cause of my pain- 2 fractures in my spine in hard to find locations. The verdict, no upper body activity for 3 months. As horrible as this news may have sounded, I was told that if I was extremely cautious, there was a good chance that I would make a full recovery.
I had a team of trainers and medical personnel at home and in Victoria BC (Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence, Parkway Physiotherapy and Performance Centre, and The Boulders climbing gym) who worked with me to develop a plan to slowly re-introduce climbing and training into my regime over a 3-month period. The plan was for me to resume my full training program at the beginning of October. Climbing in small doses with so many constraints was tough; nonetheless, it was through that 6-month ordeal, that I rediscovered my love for climbing and learned the power of maintaining a positive attitude. I started doing more traveling to work with kids at youth organizations, working with different nonprofit groups, training some of my friends, ...... things that allowed me to stay connected with the climbing community in a positive way. I had to accept the hand that I was dealt and find the best way to move forward with it.
Once I resumed my normal training program in early October, I was a little scared to put myself out there in major competitions after taking such a long hiatus. However, I knew that I couldn't let fear of failure stop me from moving forward. I competed in two Open Bouldering competitions during the first two weekends in October, winning one and placed 5th in the other. Then, I boarded a plane headed to Victoria BC, then to Xiamen China to compete in a Lead World Cup the following weekend. I landed in Xiamen one day, and competed the next. I climbed horribly, but surprisingly I wasn’t upset at all. I was just glad to be back competing and getting used to China prior to the Youth World Championships.
For two weeks I traveled with my Chinese and adidas outdoor family, Yongbang Liu, Xiao Ting, and Chuang Liu. We visited different gyms throughout China and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of nice and motivated climbers. I also thoroughly enjoyed indulging in my 2nd favorite passion- food! I got to eat lots of really different (but cool) foods, including my favorite dish, Xiaolongbao! I ate these meat dumplings almost every dayJ My two-week trek across China helped me relax, settle in, and physically/mentally prepare for my next competition.
I was excited when I finally arrived in Guangzhou and started meeting up with my US Teammates. I was eager to start the competition and I really wanted to do well and prove to myself that I was tough enough to endure a few setbacks, and still push through. Lead was my first scheduled event. The first two qualification rounds were rocky and I had to make several adjustments to push through some of the sequences that were odd for me. Flash format is never my favorite. Since my height is an outlier, I am rarely able to use the beta provided by other climbers and the forerunner. I was really glad to push through to the semifinal and final rounds, when the onsight format began.
My finals route was long and looked awesome; however, the sequencing of the final section of the route was a little odd and had all of the climbers confused about the best path to take. The first half of the problem was pretty straight forward and the crux section began as I entered the roof segment. Since all of the holds were new to me, I had to commit to each move, hoping that I was making the best decision. Toward the end of my climb I started to get tired, and I was a little hesitant to go dynamic for a crimp on the roof; luckily my flexibility helped me climb smoothly through that section. When I arrived at the point in the route where there were two different paths that you could take, one move into my chosen sequence, I quickly realized that I was stuck and did not have the energy to push through. I was happy with my performance and I could tell from the reaction of the crowd that I had reached a high point on the route. After four more climbers, my 2nd place position was secured!
My next event was bouldering. I was pretty relaxed entering this round of competition and ready to have fun on some creative boulder problems. I flashed all of my problems in the first round, however, after numerous delays due to technical errors, the entire round had to be cancelled when it started raining late afternoon. They decided to allow the semifinal round to decide the final competitors for all male categories. For us, that meant cutting the field from 65 to 6 in a single round! The semifinal round was as brutal as the drastic cut, with varied styles and low (to no) percentage moves. The final 6 was decided by the number of attempts on two tops (out of 4 problems), and I was able to secure my finals spot with two tops in three attempts!
After six days of competition, I was exhausted, but anxious to compete in the finals round for bouldering. I entered isolation surprisingly relaxed and excited to tackle some new problems. I flashed my first problem and moved on to the second with high confidence. However, the second problem proved to be too hard for our category. I also lost a little focus and was called off twice for starting the boulder incorrectly. No one ended up topping the 2nd problem. On the 3rd boulder, I topped it on my second attempt, entering my final climb in first place. On the 4th problem, I did my best and kept fighting to reach the top, however, I neglected to use the arête for assistance and failed to top the problem. When the competition ended, I had secured a silver medal in bouldering! Once my climbing was over, I was invited to co-commentate the bouldering finals round for Juniors. That was fun!!
I was excited about medaling in two disciplines at the championships. I was even more excited that the US had won the most medals in championship history: 6 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze! Each of the female categories were dominated by a single competitor: Margo Hayes (USA) won bouldering, lead and overall gold for FJR category, Janja Garnbret (SLO) won bouldering and lead for FYA, and Ashima Shiraishi (USA) won gold in bouldering and lead for FYB. Brooke Raboutou (USA) won bronze in bouldering, silver in lead, and gold for overall. Also, a special mention to my USA teammate Maya Madere for earning a bronze medal at her first world championship!
The male categories were way more scattered for each discipline. Each division had 1-2 climbers maximum that made finals in multiple disciplines. Surprisingly, I was the only one to medal in both disciplines!
Overall, I was very pleased with my performance and proud to have pushed through some pretty tough times. There was no better way to end my 2016 youth climbing season than to be surrounded by all of my climbing friends from around the world. I am always grateful to the coaches, routesetters, volunteers, and IFSC/USAC officials that make these experiences possible for me. I also want to thank my sponsors (Evolv, Adidas Outdoor, Clif Bar, and BlueWater Ropes) for supporting my goals and sticking with me through tough times, while always providing encouragement for me to continue pushing forward.
Looking ahead, I hope to return to a consistent period of being able to move forward with my climbing goals. At the same time, it's great to know that I am capable of overcoming any obstacle that life gives me and turning lemons into lemonade! Next stop for me, one week at home, then back to Europe for a month!
2015 was a big year for me in so many non-climbing related ways. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to grow up, take on more responsibility, and learn to adapt (instead of complain) about things I couldn’t control. It’s amazing how you see things differently, through slightly more mature eyes :-). One huge example was my experience over the past few weeks…….
Ever since I was 8, my family “made” me return home each year to participate in an annual Christmas Toy and Clothing giveaway, “Patty’s Wish”. During the event thousands of donated toys and clothing items are given away to underprivileged kids in my hometown, Cleveland, OH- a city with incredibly high unemployment rates and disadvantaged populations that struggle to meet basic needs. From this standpoint, I have always understood the importance of the event; however, this year for some reason I decided to ask a lot more questions and the answers that I received helped me understand my family and my grandmother’s incredible legacy.
In 1987 my grandmother, Patricia Lightner, started an annual Christmas toy and clothing giveaway, "God's Storehouse", through her church. In 2002 my grandma lost her battle with cancer, and a few years later my family decided to continue the annual event in her honor, and renamed it “Patty’s Wish”. In recent years, due to budget cuts in the local economy in Cleveland, many similar Christmas giveaway events have stopped, due to lack of financial support. Our event has continued, with my family donating any gap in the funds that was needed. During a discussion with my family while preparing a document for the event weeks ago, I began asking a lot of questions, trying to understand why they were so committed to continuing this charity event. My mom finally explained.
“When I was a kid, we had everything we needed. I never knew we were poor. As a teen, my mom made me help organize and participate in the toy giveaway at church. One year one of the volunteers spoke in a demeaning way to a lady that was there to collect items for her family. My mom got really upset, spoke to the volunteer, and then brought the lady to the front of the line to help her get everything that she needed. She later explained that she stood in every food, clothing, and toy giveaway line throughout Greater Cleveland for over 10 years, in order to make sure that we had everything that we needed.”
That short conversation put a lot of things into perspective for me. The morning of the giveaway, as I watched hundreds of people wait outside for 2-3 hours in blizzard conditions (some with very thin clothing), I reflected a lot about my family and my own upbringing.
I have the incredible privilege of flying around the world to pursue my dreams, with the support of my family and a few amazing sponsors. I can’t quite imagine what it would be like to grow up like my mom, or the other kids in my hometown that we serve each year during the holiday season. However, I do better understand how lucky I am and the fact that I am only 1 generation removed from a similar lifestyle.
I am motivated and inspired by people like my grandmother and John Ellison, founder of Climbers against Cancer (CAC), who despite fighting personal battles of their own decided to dedicate themselves to making the world a better place. As I look forward, I’m actually excited to take a more active role in Patty’s Wish 2016 and find other ways to give back and honor the many gifts that I have been given.
The thrill for me in climbing, is constantly pushing myself a little outside of my comfort zone and then fighting to rise to the challenge.
At the beginning of the year I planned to travel to SCS open nationals and then fly to Spain the following day in order to film my attempts on my first 9a route. I had researched routes in Spain and ultimately selected a specific route, Era Vella (that had grabbed my attention years before) in order to carry out this challenge.
At Open Nationals, the pressure was high, the routes were very hard, and I was the youngest competitor in a field of really strong men. For many people that scenario might sound a little intimidating, however for me I felt at home. I have trained for competitions since the age of 7. I’ve competed in over 70 competitions (including 16 national and 5 international competitions). I am used to competing. I have learned to focus on doing my best, understanding that when you only have a short time period to send a problem/route, anything can happen. I try to do my best, but I’m not too hard on myself when mistakes happen, or I don’t perform my best on that day. Needless to say, I was really proud of myself to do so well competing in my first SCS Open National championship.
Flying off to Spain the next day, under the pressure of having a camera document the process of me attempting my first 9a ascent on a specific route, was MUCH more intimidating to me. I had seen pictures of the route Era Vella, bolted by Chris Sharma in 2010, and the view was amazing. Although I had watched videos and talked to people that had climbed the route, I couldn’t help but worry whether I had selected a route that was doable for me. Outdoor climbing is a completely different beast for me compared to competitions. In competitions you have to try hard for a short period, then it’s over. As a competition climber, I don’t project routes much. I focus on onsight climbing. But outside, if the route is hard enough, you have to figure out how to fail, time after time, and still find the motivation to keep trying. I realize that if I plan to start pushing my limits more outside, I will have to work on improving my mental strength in this area.
When I first saw Era Vella, the route was even more incredible than the pictures. It was huge and a little intimidating. When I began to climb it, I realized that the individual moves were not hard for me, but I knew it would be a beast to link the moves together. This was the first time that I had projected a route not knowing if I was capable of sending it. For my past ascents, 1 or 2 moves on the route were difficult, but the routes overall were not bad for me. Era Vella was different. For 140 feet of climbing you have to stay 100% focused the whole time. The route is so sustained that I could only do 1 or 2 good attempts a day. My strength diminished with each attempt. There were times when I made it past the crux moves on the route, only to fall close to the top, on a jug, because my foot popped! I’m used to cameras at competitions, but having someone there to document my disappointment, frustration, and failures, was incredibly difficult.
Climbing with Chris Sharma gave me renewed determination. He is amazing. After getting frustrated on the route for a few days, I needed a rest day to clear my mind and recharge, so that I could go back to Era Vella and give it everything I had. Paddle boarding at Chris’ home did the trick! The camera guy, Cameron Maier fell in the water (without his equipment of course) and it was hilarious! The funniest part was the fact that it was him that fell in and not me. I am usually the clumsy one! I had soooo much fun hanging out with the guys, away from the rock, and just enjoying other aspects of Spain.
On my sixth climbing day, I had dialed in all of the moves on the route and I was hoping that I could maintain complete focus through to the chains. I was beyond excited when I made that happen, first go of the day!!!!! All of my frustration, the pain of my bloody fingers, and the doubt of accomplishing this goal, all went away the instant I clipped the anchors! Mission accomplished!!
I love the thrill of a challenge. Although accepting defeat is sometimes hard, the few times that I am able to persevere and succeed make it worth taking the risk of pushing myself beyond my limits.
NEXT STOP..........Canadian SCS Open Nationals
Bouldering competitions present a different kind of challenge for me, compared to sport climbing events. With bouldering, the route setters plan very complex, often difficult-to-read-yet-flashy sequences that we have to figure out in four minutes. Additionally, we have the luxury of tackling this challenge with thousands of people watching (in the audience and via live broadcast), bright lights, loud music and lots of cheering. No pressure….right?
In 2013, I placed 4th at the Youth World Championships. After being in the lead for all preceding rounds, in finals I was positive movement from 2nd place, and one hold from winning the competition. Being so close to the podium, yet failing to seal the deal, led me to restructure my training for 2014. It was a bumpy ride, but I am very pleased with the end result this year. :-).
Flying to Noumea for the World Championships was something that I had been looking forward to all year. However, because there were no other climbing gyms on the island besides the competition venue, most of the US team chose to stay in Sydney, Australia for a week before the event to train. I decided to do the same. Although I had lots of fun in Sydney, the days leading up to the World championships were a little rougher than normal for me (from a training perspective). Not only was it the first time I had flown to the other side of the world (23 flight hours away), but it was also the first time I had to travel internationally alone AND the first time I had ever went to a competition without my mom or coach. My mom had never missed a competition climb and Coach Shane had been at every championship competition with me since age 9. This time I traveled alone and had to be responsible for independently maintaining my training (climbing/conditioning) routine prior to the event. I stayed with my teammate, Nicholas Milburn, and his family.
Sydney was beautiful! We had a lot of fun touring the city and visiting climbing gyms. I ended up actually climbing only 2 of the 7 days prior to the competition. That’s far from my normal routine of tapering off before major championships, and that made me a little nervous going into the competition.
The moments leading up to my first qualifier climb were very hectic. I was extremely unorganized and I was not sticking to my normal isolation routine. My Q1 route was pretty straightforward. It started off pretty easy and ended with a few bouldery moves. When I went out to climb, I did not climb my best and ended up having a foot slip near the top of the wall. As a result, I was in 6th place going into my next qualifier route. I was very unhappy with my climb because I knew I could climb much better than I did.
There was a four hour break between qualifier rounds. My mom finally arrived to Noumea- right before my second qualifier climb. Our Q2 route was easier than Q1. The beginning consisted of a series of crimps onto a weird roof section. Luckily the holds were good and I was able to pull through. Although I topped the route, my climbing was not up to par; I still didn’t feel back to normal. After seeing my Q2 climb, my mom pulled me aside and noted that I was clearly not on my A-game. That night we analyzed video of both of my climbs and reviewed my entire routine that day. Mom gave me a good pep talk and told me to focus on climbing my best moving forward, and not worry about the end result. She helped realign my isolation routine and mentally prepare for the next round. My combined qualification scores placed me in 3rd heading into semifinals the next day.
By the time semifinals came around, I was much more mentally prepared than in Qualifiers. While in ISO, I felt much stronger and confident as I warmed up. During the route preview, the route looked very consistent with a few balancey moves at the top. When I went out to climb, I felt really good through the beginning of the route. As I approached the final crux sequence of the route, I realized the holds were much worse than they appeared. I wasn’t able to figure out how to grip the holds and push through the sequence, causing me to fall. Although I did not top the route, my climbing was dramatically better; I finally felt back to normal. By the end of the round, 9 of the top 10 climbers got shut down during the same sequence at the top of the climb. Two of them (including my teammate Drew Ruana) got control of the next hold coming out of the sequence, placing them in 2nd and 3rd place. I was in the next group of climbers that only got positive movement towards the next hold. Since ties were broken by our ranking in the previous round, I ended the semifinal round in 5th place heading into finals. Although my ranking between rounds technically went down, I was very proud of my climb and felt I had climbed my best. I was very eager to move on to the final round.
While preparing for finals, I felt really calm and confident. I was determined to do my best and end the competition on a good note. I knew that I would have no control over the route, or how other climbers would perform, so I decided to focus entirely on doing my personal best and not worrying about factors that I could not control. For the last year I have competed in a lot of open competitions, with the primary goal of learning how to maintain extreme focus, while being physically (or mentally) pushed to my limit in preparation for moments like this.
Being the fourth one out, I did not have a lot of time to sit in isolation and think about the gravity of the events that were occurring. By the time they were ready for me to go, I felt really calm, and I was extremely psyched to climb. The beginning of the route was straightforward with a few balancey moves up to a really good rest at the beginning of the roof section. The final section of the route looked a little trickier so I became more aggressive with my movements. As I placed my foot to push for the last hold, I was excited to stick the move and clip the anchors! I was proud of myself……….I knew I had done my best!!
As I came off of my route, they escorted me to a special section where the leading climbers in each category were being held. We had to sit there until the remaining competitors climbed, knowing that we would be replaced (in this section) when our competitor beat our current score. Since I was in 5th place coming into finals, I knew that another top in my category would lower my final competition ranking. For some reason, I was not very nervous watching my competitors climb, even though I knew that their climbs would determine my placement. However, as I saw Drew prepare to climb, I became very nervous since I wanted him to climb well also. I have known Drew since we were both 9 years old, and knowing how hard he works, I crossed my fingers that we could both secure a spot on the podium. After his climb, I realized that no matter how the last climber performed, we had secured two spots on the podium for Team USA!! This made me swell up with pride, knowing that we had represented our country very well.
After the last climber was done, it took a few moments for me to realize that I had accomplished one of my biggest goals…..…I was WORLD CHAMPION! Winning the youth world championships was a surreal experience that I will never forget. I still can’t describe all of the emotions that were going through me as I heard our national anthem play with me and Drew standing side by side on the podium.
Although the final week of my journey had been a bumpy ride, I learned a lot of valuable lessons. For starters, I now understand the importance of having (and following) structured routines, regardless of what obstacles are thrown my way. I also learned that climbing is much more enjoyable (and productive) when you focus entirely on doing your best, and let go of all other thoughts. Overall my competition experience was incredible! Thanks to the routesetters, volunteers, competition organizers, IFSC and USA Climbing, I had the opportunity to travel to a beautiful country and interact with so many amazing kids from around the globe. THANK YOU!!
This time last year, I had a conversation about not being able to return to the world championships this year because of increased costs. Within a month of having that conversation, I began speaking with several potential sponsors about my plans for 2014. Shortly after, Tent & Trails, prAna, Maxim Ropes, Salewa, and Black Diamond allowed me to join their teams as an ambassador for their products. Together with Evolv, these amazing companies agreed to help me move forward and continue pursuing my dreams. I owe all of my successes this year to the unwavering support of my mom, coaches, and my sponsors. Words can’t express my gratitude. Thanks for believing in me!!
Next Stop…….The PanAmerican Championships November 26-30 in Mexico City. Wish Me Luck!!
My trip to Salt Lake City, August 6-10, started with the Outdoor Retailer show and ended with a day trip to Maple Canyon. In the middle was the Psicobloc competition. That was an "experience" that I had to describe in a separate blog.
THE OR SHOW
The OR show was packed wall-to-wall with outdoor business booths from around the country. It was a little overwhelming when I first entered the main building. After figuring out how to navigate through the action packed venue, it was pretty cool to meet some of the most influential people in the industry that are responsible for many of the products that we use.
During my first day at the event I participated in a poster signing session at the Evolv booth with Chris Sharma, Alex Johnson and Ashima Shiraishi. I had a lot of fun interacting and meeting so many new people that share my same addiction to climbing. As a bonus for doing the poster signing session at the Evolv booth, Alex Johnson gave me an autographed poster. The only thing was, it was my poster! And she had drawn Ashima's hair style on me and autographed her "artwork" as a present. NO WAY I'm posting her "artwork" of Kai-shima!
The next day I participated in a “Young Gun” poster signing at the Maxim booth with Cameron and Jonathan Horst. I had fun hanging out with them and other Maxim climbers, including their dad Eric Horst. We even got to take a neat “John Long pose” picture with Hans Florine.
Before leaving the OR show, I also enjoyed hanging out with my Salewa representatives and prAna athletes at a team luncheon. Once I left the venue, my stomach started bubbling up inside as I headed to the Psicobloc competition wall to test out the wall and take my first “Psycho Jump” from 50 feet, into the pool below! See my PSICOBLOC blog post for details.
After recovering from my incredible “Psicobloc Experience”, Momentum Climbing gym team members agreed to take me to Maple Canyon the next day to climb at the Pipe Dream cave.
The 30 minute, all uphill hike to the crag kind of killed my initial excitement; however, once I reached the cave, it was unlike anything (or place) I had ever seen. Maple Canyon has conglomerate cobblestone rock. It looks like someone piled massive stacks of small rocks into one huge hill and then super glued it all together. The cave was a super tall, very overhanging, and pretty amazing! Quickly, the misery of the hike disappeared, and all excitement returned. With climbing team friends and an amazing climbing cave, I was in paradise and ready to enjoy my usual half climb/ half hang out session at the crag :-) .
I was glad that my friend, Dru Mack, from the Red River Gorge area (and one of my favorite belayers, next to Mom of course) happened to be in the area and joined us at the cave. He knows my climbing style and directed me to several climbs that he thought I would enjoy.
I started off warming up on a slight overhanging 5.11c route. I took my time climbing the route, trying to get used to the cobblestone textures. Next, I had initially planned to climb The Diggler (5.13a); however, as I was approaching the anchors of that route, I felt really good and decided to continue and complete Mexican Rodeo (5.13d). I was proud to have onsighted the route.
Next, I moved on to preview (and climb) the classic Pipe Dream route (5.14a). This is a really neat, extremely overhanging line. After tying in, I headed up the route across the roof section, and started to get a little confused about the sequence. I took a while to look over the section, and I tried several sequences to clear the lip of the route. Someone then shouted out and asked if I wanted beta. Normally I would say yes, especially since I still had a LONG way to go to the anchors and had already burned a lot of time on the route. For some reason, I shouted out "No". I wanted to figure it out on my own. After a moment, I came up with another plan, committed, and pushed through that section of the route. As I continued navigating through the climb, I encountered a few more sections that were not straight forward and I had to keep locking off to search for holds. As I approached the anchors, then clipped, I was excited to tick off my first 5.14a onsight!
I rested a while and decided to take on the toughest route in the cave, Divine Fury (5.14b). This is a LONG 20 bolt route, which starts in the back of the cave, continued through a long roof section, and then linked up with the final 4 bolts of Pipe Dream. As I entered the roof section, I quickly got confused and even after asking for beta, I was unable to complete a tough kneebar sequence. I decided to call take, beg someone to throw up knee pads, and dig in to find a sequence that worked for me. I fumbled around on the roof for a LONG time trying to find an efficient sequence. For me efficiency is mandatory on long sport routes. After falling numerous times, and fumbling my way up to the anchors, I took my shoes off and went over to hang out, eat, and rest.
A while later, it was starting to get late, so I grabbed my shoes & chalk bag, and asked for one last belay before leaving. They were surprised that I was going back up on the route. Especially since I had called take so many times on my first attempt. No one realized that most of my takes were because I was searching for efficient sequences and conserving energy, since I had already blown my first attempt. I had totally planned to get back on that route and try one more send attempt before leaving. I was super excited when I climbed my way to the anchors and ascended the route!
Although I only ended up climbing 4 routes, I had a pretty productive and enjoyable day. Hanging out with friends, climbing at a new crag (and a different type of rock), and accomplishing a new milestone made it a perfect climbing day. Luckily Momentum climbing gym sent their photographer, Jonathan Vickers, with us to capture the day through pictures. I wish I had more days at the canyon, but I'm glad that I got to sneak one in. I can't wait to return to Salt Lake City! This was definitely one of my most adventurous trips!!
For some reason, I thought free climbing an overhanging wall, 50 feet above an Olympic sized swimming pool was a great idea. That thought quickly disappeared after I arrived to the Psicobloc wall for a practice session. After climbing 50 feet high on the climbing wall and realizing that there was only one way down, I found myself sitting on top off the wall with my feet dangling over the edge. A variety of thoughts went through my mind. There was a HUGE distance between me and the water! It was too late to change my mind………. After looking over the edge for a while, I finally stood up, shook my head, and I jumped off of the top of the wall. I felt my stomach drop as I frantically stared at the water as it got closer and closer, until I finally hit. The falling process itself was TERRIFYING, but hitting the water actually did not hurt at all. I was glad to get the initial jump over! Although I hung around and took 2 more jumps before leaving the pool for the day, I wasn’t completely convinced that my practice session had made me more comfortable with competing in the Psicobloc competition.
THE SEEDING ROUND
The next day was the seeding round of the competition. We weren’t allowed to practice the route. Climbers were randomly paired, and we had to climb up the route as fast as possible. All climbers had two times to climb the route and the best of their two attempts (in terms of highest hold and time) was recorded. Ultimately the climber that got the highest on the route would receive the highest seed and time was used to break ties. The male and female routes were both on the wall. Basically the women had to climb the mens route with a lot of additional, positive holds as intermediates. Without those holds, the route was significantly more dynamic!
When it was my turn to climb, I started climbing up the route but when I got to the double dyno move (30 feet above the water), I was too terrified to aggressively commit to the move, so I fell and went spinning around like a helicopter until I hit the water. Luckily I was able to stay controlled enough to enter feet first. That fall was scary!! Additionally, the temperature outside was in the 50s and the water was significantly colder!!
Although I was frightened and freezing cold, I knew I had one more attempt on the route, and I was committed to finishing what I started. On my second attempt, I was determined to stick the double dyno move and progress up the route. And I did! After making this move, I continued climbing, one burly move after the next, up to the final moves on the route.
As I went for the 2nd to last hold, I didn’t lock off enough to statically reach the hold, and I was afraid to aggressively commit to it (50 feet above the water). As a result, I fell and took the 50 feet fall into the freezing water. At this point, the temperature outside had dropped to 49°, but the water was so much colder. I later found out that Jimmy Webb and I had reached the same high point, but he was much faster and had reached the same point on both attempts. After both attempts on the route, I wasn’t completely comfortable with the whole “free climbing over the pool and falling 50 feet into the water” thing, however I had gotten more comfortable with making aggressive moves on the wall and controlling my fall into the pool. I knew I could top the route and I was eager to conquer my fears in finals the next day and prove to myself that that I could handle climbing hard even when I am completely out of my comfort zone. Mind over Matter.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized they had paired me against Jimmy Hulk, I mean........ Jimmy Webb, in the first round. I knew I could not out power him (funny thought, right), and power is definitely a factor when speed climbing difficult routes. Instead I decided to focus on topping the route, let things play out, and enjoy the overall Psicobloc experience.
The Final event started with the ladies. I enjoyed cheering on my friends and watching some legendary women have fun and conquer their fears. In the end, my fellow youth competitor (and US Team member) Claire Burhfeind walked away with the win, with Delaney Miller close behind!
Next up was the men. I was scheduled as the 2nd match up. When it was my turn to climb, I took a deep breathe, and was determined to conquer my fears, commit to all moves and finish the route. When the clock started, I began to climb and Jimmy started flying up the route. Had he been climbing any closer, I would have blown off the route from the smoke that he left behind! At one point I stopped to rest and had hoped to catch a glance at him flying up the final section and topping out. Unfortunately, I was on an overhang and had to miss the action :-). Once he topped out, I was committed to finishing the route, enjoying my last climb of the comp, AND staying dry!
Jimmy waited for me at the top of the route, cheering me on to finish, so that we could jump off together. I was very proud of myself for finishing the route and enjoyed my moment, standing up on top of the wall with one of the world’s strongest climbers!
As for the simultaneous jump........ I let him have the victory leap and I climbed down the back structure of the wall :-). I stayed dry- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!
The second round of the mens comp was the most exciting for me. Jimmy Webb vs. 25 world cup podium champ, Sean McColl! Those men flew up the 50+ feet, 5.13+ route in under 50 seconds!!!!! Jimmy Webb was narrowly defeated by Sean McColl’s 42 second run! In the end, it was V15/5.15 climber Daniel Woods vs Sean McColl. Although both guys were tired, wet, and cold, they still put on an awesome performance, with Sean narrowly defeating Daniel for the win!
Next stop…..the Youth World Championship September 20-24. WISH ME LUCK!
After 2 weeks of training in Europe, I was VERY eager to get back home and train for this year’s SCS Youth National Championship in Atlanta, GA. Two weeks before nationals, I always go to Atlanta to train at the competition venue, Stone Summit. One of the best parts about climbing at Stone Summit before Nationals is seeing all my friends at the pre-national training camps held there annually. While there, my day consists of training really hard with competitors (that I technically compete against). Although in most sports competitors rival with one another, climbing is one of the rare sports where competitors actually cheer each other on. Instead of rivalries between competitors, we actually have fun working together and helping each other improve on routes during the pre-national training camp. As the camps came to an end, everyone started to get excited about competing at the most anticipated competition of the year to decide who would represent the United States at this year’s Youth World Championships.
The qualifying round of the competition consisted of two separate routes: qualifier 1 (Q1) which is held the first day (Friday), and qualifier 2 (Q2) on the second day (Saturday). Both routes were flash format. Traditionally, Q1 is a really easy route that almost everyone completes. However, after multiple falls from our forerunner during our route preview, that belief quickly disappeared. Our forerunner helped to expose several tricky spots on the route which were not obvious from the ground. Our Q1 route started out really easy, a lot of positive holds on an overhang, but at about the 70% mark, the route changed to more slabby sections with not-so-good holds up to the anchors. Out of 36 competitors, only 3 completed the route.
Our Q2 route started up an overhanging wall and quickly changed to about 30 feet of roof climbing (on really positive holds). The last section of the route was all slab, with a lot of really balancey moves to the anchors. After climbing an overhang and roof section, balancey moves are much more difficult when you’re tired. As a result, only 4 climbers completed the route. Our two qualifier scores were combined, and the top 16 climbers advanced to semifinals. I entered the semifinals round in a two way tie for first.
While previewing our semifinals route I made a mental note about a sloper section mid route and the final move to the anchors. The sloper section had a weird sequence that looked a little confusing, and the final hold on the route was a sidepull (turned in the opposite direction).
The route started by climbing on really positive holds, on an overhanging wall for about 40 feet. Then the route changed to a slab section with the weird sloper sequence, followed by a few power moves up to a nice jug right below the lip to the final wall surface of the route. Luckily while climbing the route, when I got to the sloper section, as I made each move, my body kind of fell into the next move and the sequence made a lot more sense than it did from the ground. After clearing the sloper section and the power moves to the jug, I was glad to get a good rest before transitioning to the final section of the route.
At this point in the route, I had climbed about 70 ft (and had just cleared a tough section), so routesetters had to know that climbers would be physically and mentally tired. With this in mind, someone came up with the “brilliant” idea (note the sarcasm) to have us clear the lip of the wall by grabbing two crimps (one on the side of a volume) and drop cutting (our tired bodies) to a really good foot just over the lip. If we managed to make that move, they knew we wouldn’t have much juice left in us. After clearing this sequence, I made a few more moves up to the second to last hold. At this point my arms were starting to get fatigued and I wasn’t sure if I could finish the route. I got a good drop knee, to relieve my arms for a few seconds; I clipped the anchors, and then made the final move to the finish hold. I managed to get a good grip on the finish hold, but it was slippery and shallow, so I slipped right off, falling short of completing the route. Although I didn’t get the send, I had high point on the route.
My semifinals climb was my favorite route of the comp- a variety of climbing styles and wall angles, they kept me thinking, and I had to fight for the finish. It was definitely Type 2 fun :-)!
For our finals route, we were back on the roof! This time we had a longer roof section to climb (at least 40 feet). The route started on an overhang up to the roof section. In order to clear the roof section, we had to balance on a series of three slopers, up to an even larger sloper where I was able to get a good shake out. After the large sloper was a move to a big volume. I later found out that another climber was able to get a REALLY good rest by wedging himself between one of the slopers below and the volume. With my height that wasn’t going to happen, and luckily I wasn’t tired and didn’t need to rest. After stopping for a few seconds at the volume, I made my final push through a series of “interesting movements” on crimps and slopers in order to get to the anchors.
I was really excited to complete the route and cinch my 5th consecutive SCS championship title! I was even more psyched to earn the opportunity to represent the USA at the Youth World Championships in New Caledonia in September!! Before you raise an eybrow and ask “Where is New Caledonia?” It’s an island off the coast of Australia :).
This year’s Nationals was pretty awesome. With the help of a lot of great volunteers, the staff (and owners) of Stone Summit Climbing gym, USA Climbing officials, and amazing routesetters, they put on an incredible event for hundreds of competitors to enjoy!!
Below is a picture of the US Team for the Male Youth B (14-15 yr old) category. WISH US LUCK!!!
At DRR, the boulder bash and speed bouldering competitions were held inside of a huge 25-30 foot tall metal cage structure. Large volumes were attached to the metal beams, with climbing holds attached to the volumes. Climbers started on the ground towards the back of the cage and had to maneuver from volume to volume following a steep path up to the finish hold--- 25 feet high. Climbers that reach the finish hold can top out and take the stairs back down to the ground. Everyone else had to take the big fall down to a 2 foot padding system below. I can honestly say, that I fell so much last weekend that I could probably do a product review for the padding company!!
Boulder bash Qualifier Rounds
The first qualifier round was Friday evening. Qualifier 1 was a short slopey boulder problem……not my favorite type. Nonetheless, I came out and did my best trying to navigate some large, unfriendly slopers. I ended the first qualifier route in 13th place. I knew I had a tough fight ahead of me.
The 2nd qualifier round was Saturday morning. Qualifier 2 was a longer route type boulder problem. I was much happier when I previewed this problem. The beginning of the problem was weird. It started on a slab and you were supposed to pressure your foot and throw for a crimp with your left hand. I tried that move multiple times, but couldn’t make it. I decided to change up a little and throw for the crimp with my right hand, instead of left, and I made it. I had to match the crimp in order to get back in sequence. I later found out that many people were unable to complete the starting move!
After reaching the crimp, I had to quickly smear my hand on the next volume and balance my way over to a pair of positive slopers. After a series of power technical moves, I worked my way up to the last volume on the problem. The volume was positioned upside down and as I was climbing the volume (like a roof), I got confused trying to figure out where to put my feet, and I fell.
I was proud of myself when I found out I had the 3rd high point and combined with my Q1 score, I had moved up to 7th place going in to the semifinal round.
There was a two hour break between the end of Qualifier 2 and the beginning of the semifinals round.
Boulder bash Semifinals
The semifinals problem was another long route type problem. The route looked reasonable when I previewed it; however, when I actually climbed it, I quickly realized that the problem was much tougher than it looked. The beginning of the route was very bouldery. The first few moves had me eager to get to a resting spot. I was happy when I finally reached a decent sized jug and got a little rest. After a short rest, I continued through a few beta intensive moves, and then locked off to reach a really crappy side pull hold. At this point, I flagged one of my feet, locked off and reached up to a pinch on the next volume above. I had a firm grip on the pinch …………..….. and then I don’t know what happened!?! My hand just opened up and let go. I guess my muscles were tired?!? I was only midway through the problem when I fell, so I wasn’t very confident that I had done enough to make it to finals. I was really surprised when I found out that I was moving on to finals in 4th place.
There was a two hour break between Semifinals and Finals.
The finals problem started very bouldery. It began with a series of odd slopers, followed by a few powerful moves. Overall, the problem didn’t look that bad, but the sloper start, had me a little worried. When I came out to climb I began up the starting slopers, but could not figure out how to maneuver them. I kept falling. I tried several different methods, including a foot first sequence, but I could not figure out how to use the holds correctly. I began to get frustrated with each failed attempt. When I finally figured out the beta, which was much simpler than I was making it, I made a stupid foot mistake and fell. My time was almost gone, and I was really disappointed that it took me so long to figure out the correct sequence. I had slipped back to 8th place to end the competition. Vasya Vorotnikov and Meagan Martin put on an awesome show and walked away with the win!
After a long day of competition rounds, I was glad to go back to the hotel and rest.
The speed bouldering competition was on Sunday. There were 2 qualifier routes that we were allowed to practice that morning. As I practiced the qualifying problems, I realized I could reduce my time by campusing a few moves on the route. We were told that we would climb each route twice and our lowest time would be recorded on each route. The top 4 climbers with the lowest combined qualifying times would move on to finals.
My two runs on the first qualifier problems went as planned and my lowest time put me in 5th place going in to the 2nd qualifier problem. As the guys began to climb the 2nd qualifier problem, I noticed that they decided to campus the entire 15-20 move roof problem! They were flying through the air like Tarzan swinging through the jungle, making 360° campus dyno moves! They were cutting their time significantly using this method.
When my turn came up, I did the only thing that came to mind at the moment. I jumped up on the problem and began doing my own Tarzan impersonation and campused the route, 360° moves and all! I was proud of myself for being able to pull off some of those moves. When I came down off the route, my arms tingled a little as I returned to the line for my 2nd run. My 2nd go, I took the same approach and cut my time even lower. When I came off of the problem the 2nd time, my arms felt like they were on fire!!!!!!!! At first I didn’t understand why, but as I thought about it, the reason was obvious. I’m a sport climber. I’ve been trained to use my feet efficiently and minimize pulling with my arms. And although my Tarzan experience was FUN, I quickly realized that my arms weren’t as excited about my adventure. They needed a few days to recover……….. I ended the speed competition in 6th place. Ultimately, Josh Levin, and Meagan Martin came out with the win!
I’ve competed in A LOT of climbing competitions, but Dominion River rock was unlike anything I have ever done before. I had a blast competing this year, and I look forward to next year’s comp!
Next stop, Mountain film Festival in Telluride, CO next weekend………………..