What a whirlwind the past couple months have been! I competed at my first ABS Nationals, managed to do a route at the top of my lifetime list, and competed at my second SCS Nationals.
The Past Few Months - Brad Weaver
ABS Nationals is still a complete blur to me. The entire experience was pretty stressful to me but it was also a complete blast. I managed to do pretty well in qualifiers and semi-finals and missed making finals by just a couple of holds. Overall I’m really psyched about the competition and can’t wait to compete next year.
I’ve had a very limited experience with competition climbing during my climbing ‘career’ and the more competitions I do, the more I realize that I really enjoy them. The most difficult aspect of competition climbing is the anticipation leading up to the actual climbing during the event. Being a pretty high-strung person, the downtime before heading into ISO and climbing destroys me. All the unknowns run through my head and mess with my confidence. All I want to do is get to the venue and start climbing. As soon as I’m able to do that I am good to go but the hours leading up to that are torture.
Onward into March. With ABS Nationals over, it was time to focus on sport climbing. I registered for SCS Nationals and started to get into route shape by taking a few trips to the Red on weekends. My goal was to try and climb the direct start to Southern Smoke.
I’ve had a long history with different sections of this route. Five years ago, Joe Kinder bolted Southern Smoke and he and I worked the route until we eventually got the first and second ascents. At the time, we looked at the direct start to the route and quickly wrote it off, thinking it was possible, but much too hard for us at the time. We instead elected to do a small traverse into the route, avoiding the beginning V12 boulder problem creating Southern Smoke 5.14c
Last year I nearly finished off Southern Smoke Direct by climbing it from three moves in. The route breaks down into a V12 boulder problem into a 14c route, giving it the final grade of 14d. I was super amped to do that and knew I could finish it off if I had one weekend of cold weather. Unfortunately, that cold weather never came and summer rolled in. This spring my goal was to finish the route in its entirety.
My first weekend on the route this year went pretty well. After getting back some basic endurance in the gym I felt pretty fit and managed to repeat the 14c portion of Southern Smoke. The boulder problem at the beginning was proving to be more difficult than I would have liked. The holds on the lower section are extremely temperature dependent and remind me
After some work, I unlocked the bottom boulder problem with a different method than I was using last year. After figuring this section out I was able to get through the boulder from the start only to fall off the very top of the route - three moves from the final jug! As devastating as it was, I knew that I could absolutely do the route.
I awoke the next day feeling tired and sore, but psyched! I knew I had to get the route done because my next three weekends were taken. After that, temperatures would be too warm. After warming up I tried the boulder problem at the start of the route and just couldn’t pull it together. I felt wrecked. Thoughts about having to leave the route for another season started to fill my head and I began to get really frustrated. Not again. I didn’t want to leave the route for ANOTHER season. I had fallen all over the route and had made every possible link I could. I sat for 15 minutes to let my hands cool off and then pulled on for my last try of the day. Somehow I managed to barely get through the boulder problem and get to the starting rail of the 14c section of Southern Smoke. From there, my body took over and I was on autopilot. Before I knew it I was clipping the chains! I couldn’t believe it! The battle was finally over and I never had to try any section of the route again!
Finishing off SSD was a good confidence booster going into SCS Nationals. After two more weeks of training I felt fit and was on a flight to Santa Ana, CA!
By the time the competition rolled around I was itching to start climbing. Like I said previously, the anticipation of waiting for the competition to start kills me. Qualifiers went pretty well but I felt a little shaky after not having climbed for a few days. My goal coming into this competition was to make finals, a feat I had never been able to accomplish. Luckily I climbed well enough to squeeze my way into finals in 7th place.
The next day coming into finals I felt nervous but really psyched! I felt good during my warm up and had no expectations going out to climb. After previewing the finals route I had a pretty good idea of what I had to do on the route and disappeared back into ISO to wait my turn to climb. While I was waiting, I tried my best to take my mind off the anxiety of being in front of a rowdy audience and tried to focus my attention on climbing: breathing, not over-gripping, moving fluidly, etc.
As I started up the finals route I felt really good. Again, my body kind of took over and I just moved really intuitively. Nothing felt forced and I felt like I was in a good flow. As I was climbing, I remember thinking about 2/3 of the way up that I was getting pretty high on the route. As I continued climbing I came out of my autopilot mode briefly as I realized I was staring at the last hold on the route. My mind starting moving a million miles an hour and time slowed down. As I stared down the final jug I thought, “Don’t mess it up.” I jumped across my body, snagged the finish hold with one hand, and clipped the chains! I couldn’t believe it!
As happy as I was to complete the route, my mind immediately switched into route setter mode and all I could think was that the route was set too easy. I’m sure it gave the setters a bit of a panic attack seeing the second person out of ISO complete the route with the six strongest climbers still to come out.
The six remaining climbers came out but none were able to complete the route, putting me in first place. Even now, it seems so strange and surreal. All of the other competitors are all very capable of winning and this event taught me that anybody can have a good or bad day. Luckily, I had one of those days that comes rarely and I felt very on point. One of my long-term goals has been to win a National competition but I thought it would take several more years of competing to accomplish this goal. I’m very lucky to have been given the opportunity to compete and I’m excited to continue to do so in the future.
Now it’s time to get back in bouldering shape. My trip to CO is approaching quickly!