I am sitting in Boston Logan International, exhausted after a weekend of competition climbing, little sleep and an early morning drive from Loon Mountain, NH to Boston. This trip was one of those that I would do all over again, despite its whirlwind nature. I arrived in Boston on Thursday evening and met up with Alex Johnson to drive to Loon Mountain, NH for the Unified Bouldering Championship event. We drove 2.5 hours to the small town of Lincoln, NH, a quaint “mountain” town. The White Mountains are a far cry from the mountains I am used to, but they are beautiful nonetheless. Fall was coming to the hills around Lincoln, and patches of yellows and oranges were starting to peek through the greens.
Friday morning Alex and I met up with Ronnie Jenkins to check out some of the new shoes in the Five Ten line. He had a big demo kit, so we were able to try on four different models- The Arrowhead, The Quantum, The Black Wing and The Hornet. All of these shoes are awesome, but I think my favorite new shoe is going to be the Quantum. I haven’t had the chance to climb in these yet, but they fit like a glove and I really like the design. The Quantums are down-turned lace-ups that I personally think will be the new favorite Five Ten shoe. Alex ranted about how great they were before I saw them, and I was not disappointed. I think all the new shoes that I saw were very very good, and I am really looking forward to trying each and every one of them out.
Qualifiers were held that afternoon. The weather was a bit warm and humid, but it didn’t rain as it has in the past at this event, so everyone was happy. The walls that we climbed on were the World Cup walls, so I was familiar with the terrain. Qualifiers consisted of six problems this time, which is more problems than I am used to climbing in a row. I think the extra problems in qualis were added to make up for the lack of a semi-finals round. The format was the traditional 5 minutes on/5 minutes off format. The problems in qualis were very fun, ranging from technical to dynamic to powerful. Women’s four was one of my favorites, because I was forced to double dyno, and was proud of myself for succeeding. The dyno was not the most difficult, but it always feels rewarding to me when I climb successfully in a style that is not completely in my comfort zone. Women’s six was a neat problem as well, mixing powerful climbing with technique and body position. I was unable to complete this problem, as I couldn’t figure out the correct body position to move off of a slopey left hand gaston towards the top of the problem. I walked away from qualifiers having flashed 5 problems and getting ¾ of the way up the 6th. I was satisfied with my performance and didn’t feel too beat up, which is always a good feeling with finals still to come.
After climbing in qualis, a bunch of the athletes got together and went out to dinner at a local sports bar. It was great to have this type of gathering, because usually I only spend time with one or two of my friends at these events. This time, possibly due to the small size of the town, 10 or 12 of us were in the same place at once. I really enjoyed getting to know some people that I hadn’t spent much time with before, and that was one of the highlights of the weekend for sure.
Saturday was the second day of the event and the weather was even better than Friday. It was cooler and drier, which made it feel even more like fall. Alex and I both noticed that the trees seemed to have become more vibrant overnight, which made the surroundings even more beautiful. Finals were earlier than normal on Saturday and began at 3. The doors of the event had opened earlier in the morning, so there was a descent crowd gathered when finals started. I was third going into finals, which meant I would climb fourth out of six. The format for finals was modified World Cup format, which is not my favorite, but not the worst. In this format, there are 3 problems for each gender. Men and women climb at the same time, and everyone previews all three routes before climbing begins. Then, one woman and one man climb at a time with a 5 minute time limit. If the first woman flashes, then the next woman starts climbing right away. This means that you never really know how much time you will be resting in between problems. Also, the competitors sit with their backs to the wall, which means you can hear everything that is going on. While you can often get an idea what is going on out on the wall from isolation, this format accentuates this feature and, in my opinion, is much more nerve wracking. One good thing about this format is that you typically get to rest longer between problems, because all six competitors have to climb on problem 1 before moving on to problem 2.
Women’s problem 1 was a technical, slopey problem, and all 6 girls finished it (5 flashed, 1 completed it 2nd try). Women’s 2 was a little more powerful with a technical knee bar move at the top. I screwed this problem up by using a lower foot for the knee bar and falling once as a result. Women’s 3 was the deciding problem, since 5 women had completed the first 2 problems. This problem was pretty straight-forward, but much more powerful. There was a big jumpy stopper move relatively low on the problem that thwarted half of the field. Alex absolutely crushed the problem (which I unfortunately was not allowed to watch) and was the only woman to complete it (with a flash). Francesca Metcalf and I both got to the same place about half-way up the problem, and ended up tying in all respects in finals. Count backs to qualifiers, however, put me behind Francesca. The final results are posted at www.boulderingcomps.com. Ethan Pringle made an awesome return to comp climbing and won the men’s field. It is so great to see Ethan back after being injured (something I can relate to), and I was incredibly psyched he was so successful. Overall, the finals problems were very fun.They could have separated the field a little better, but I enjoyed them for the most part, and I think most of the competitors seemed to agree.
The remainder of the event was filled with music, food, drinks and socializing. Everyone was in good spirits and the Nor’Easter seemed to be a success. It was an event that I was actually sad to see end, which doesn’t happen all the time. I had a blast hanging out with Alex and many of the other competitors and I’m looking forward to doing it again. I sometimes worry that I will get burnt out on comp climbing again, but if events continue to be this fun, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Alex summed it up pretty well just now in a text message that read: “My abs are sore from laughing all weekend.” That’s a good problem to have.