I awoke on Saturday morning at a friend’s house after sleeping for about ten hours straight. Despite the long night’s sleep I still felt exhausted- the previous night’s lack of sleep had finally caught up with me. I didn’t have a key to my friend’s apartment, or the building, but I needed some food for breakfast and I didn’t want to wake him up, knowing he’d been up all night setting for the comp, so I left his front door slightly ajar and the held the lock to the door of the building open with a piece of paper in hopes that I’d come back from the grocery store before anyone left or entered the building. I sprinted the two blocks to the store, bought yogurt, bananas, dates and cereal (standard breakfast fare) and sprinted back to find the door to the building still open! Whew.
I ate and moved around the apartment quietly, not wanting to disturb my host, but the morning was slipping quickly into afternoon and I knew Isolation would be closing soon so I began to get antsy… finally I knocked on his bedroom door and peered in to find him NOT THERE. Uh oh… I convinced myself he hadn’t fallen asleep behind the wheel driving home at 5am, not gotten into a terrible wreck and he’d waltz in at any moment. Everything would be fine, I’d win the comp, becoming rich and famous, have not a care in the world, then later realize I wouldn’t need any material possessions, walk into the wilderness leaving everything behind to seek enlightenment! He walked in five minutes later, so, at least he was ok and I got a ride back to the comp. No fame or riches or enlightenment though. That stuff will have to wait.
In Iso I felt tired and lethargic. I didn’t feel as springy or psyched as I had the day before. As usual I didn’t allow myself ample time to warm up and my name was called to leave Iso for the semis all to quickly. Dangit! Sitting in the on-deck chair for Problem 1, sandwiched between serious competitors from locations I couldn’t point to on a world map, I felt out of place and intimidated. I heard Klemen, who had qualified one spot behind me flash the first problem. I was screwed. I flailed.
Problem 1 was a delicate, fingery number involving this weird sloper with shallow one and a half finger pockets dimpling its surface. I was afraid of this hold and what it might do to my tendons if I wasn’t absolutely careful, and when I groped it’s surfaces searching for a secure position for my fingers to rest, I found none and fell. Problem 2 was just ridiculous. Probably 8b. It took me 3 tries just to stick the first move, which I later learned only half the competitors managed. Only one competitor, this machine of a Russian boulderer who went on to win the comp made it past the second move to the zone hold. On his best attempt he threw for the last move and patted the useable part of the finish hold, but didn’t hang on. Problem 3 looked doable to me but by that point the wind had gone from my sails. My balloon was flat and droopy, not filled with helium, as it had been the previous day. There were some tricky, traversy moves under the overhang with no hand holds other than to press upward on the overhang, then a desperate reach out to the arête, then a big, blind jump to a sloper. I somehow figured out my way to the jump on my first attempt. With the knowledge that sticking this jump would secure me a birth in finals, I might have tried harder, jumped harder, gave it my all, but as it was I felt smoked from the opening moves and I just didn’t fully commit to the jump. I came up just short. Ugh! After laying on the ground and looking up at the problem I realized that if it was a normal session in the gym, I probably would have lept with less reservation and made the necessary double-clutch to stick the big sloper, but I was a little scared and hesitated. Of course I couldn’t climb up to the jump move on my subsequent tries. Then the fourth problem was like 8b again and I couldn’t get past the second move.
We had a saying in Ceuse before my friend Mandi left. Instead of complaining over something we had or no longer had any control over, we’d just say OFW (for Oh F****** Well). I wasn’t in finals, but I had done well in the comp anyway, even better then I expected so, OFW. I went straight to the beer tent and grabbed a nice cold… beverage. It tasted perfect and I joined the other spectators to watch the rest of the semi-finalists.
There were thunderstorms between semis and finals and it poured. I mean it came down HARD. For like half an hour, then it just cleared up. Just like that. The massive crowd filtered into the field in front of the climbing wall as the dyno comp was held. Nicky De Leeuw, “The Flying Dutchman” set a record dyno for the Vienna WC wall. Sick! We slack lined, consumed more cold beverages, and made ready our bench to stand on so we could tower above the rest of the crowd and actually see the wall. It was a packed house, or a packed field, so we were psyched we had the bench. Bench-life.
Finals goes like this: all the competitors are brought out and introduced one by one before the finals, asked some silly little question and forced to come up with a witty answer on the spot in front of the hundreds of people watching (that’s when I was glad I wasn’t up there), then they preview the boulders they’d be climbing- four problems each for the men and women, six competitors per gender. All six competitors have four minutes on each problem before the whole group advances to the next problem, which means more resting time between problems, which in turn means harder problems. And did they ever look hard for the men! Holy cow!
On problem 1, young Lukas Ennemoser from Innsbruck made an impressive performance, almost topping out the problem on his third or fourth try, which would have given him the cup automatically! Besides that, nobody came very close at all. The second problem looked super hard and crimpy, something I imagined certain young American boulderers might have gotten up, if they were there! The third problem looked equally as hard but of a much different style- severly overhung and brutally powerful. The highest anyone made it up this freddy-kruger bloc was about ¾ of the way, and very few even made it that high. So for the men it all came down to the last problem- a circus-trick style rig requiring a competitor to start with both hands and feet on one upside down, pyramid-shaped volume, then use a slopey sidepull to gain another volume, facing the opposite direction. The burly dudes then had to shift their weight out right over the only slopey foothold and lunge out right to double-clutch another slopey volume. It looked super fun to me and I wished at that moment I had qualified, but kept the mantra in mind… OFW. Only two guys- Klemen and the winner, Dimitry Sharafutdinov, stuck the double-clutch, and the crowd went wild when they did eager to see a guy finally top something out! It was pretty sick and even though everyone agreed the problems were two hard, I still enjoyed watching- it was a sad story with a happy ending.
In the end the finals for the men was basically another dyno comp, just a bit less straight forward then the last, but the ladies problems seem to spread the field out perfectly. Anna Stohr topped out all four problems, including the last one that also involved a douple clutch dyno (this one though was to two holds that were about two feet apart) and THAT was impressive to watch. She fell from the dyno maybe three times, each time getting closer and closer, then pulled on the wall with the final seconds ticking off the clock and… stuck it! She’s a machine! Again the crowd went wild. The other ladies climbed well and there were some impressive performances but the most climbs any other girl completed were two. Puccio climbed well, earning a silver medal with flashes of two of the problems.
Finalists were brought on stage, trophies that looked like mid-evil torture devices were given to the top three, and national anthems from the winner’s counties (Russia and Austria) were played over the loud speakers. Hands shook, competitors congratulated, groups dispersed and trains were boarded to the after party.
The after party was hosted in a bar/club place that was literally connected to an underground train station. Pretty cool! I guess it was the old train station before it was modernized and rebuilt to 100X the size. Good times were had by all in attendance, except AJ who wasn’t in attendance (flake!) In the morning I took the 5 am train to the airport, my mind reeling from the whirlwind of a weekend, and from that last white-russian I’d had not two hours prior… oof.
Comps will always hold a special place in my rock hard heart. I started climbing in the gym, in junior comps, and I’ve always enjoyed doing them. Ok maybe not ALWAYS, but most of the time. I don’t think I’ll loose my motivation to do them until I’m physically incapable of doing well in them, which (fingers crossed) won’t be for several years still, especially if I take good care of my body. Hell, Salavat Rakhmetov won the bouldering world championships when he was 37 years old. Thirty-freaken-seven! I watched him win that comp and that was BAD ASS. I want to be that bad ass in 12 years. Ok training for next season starts now! Mmm, that chocolate bar looks tasty… ok I’ll start training tomorrow. Tomorrow for sure!