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Chris Danielson's report of ABS Nationals

Chris Danielson's report of ABS Nationals
February 15, 2010 -  Chris Danielson    

ABS Nationals – Great Success – The Alex Show continues, Ol’ Man Bos comes a crushin, and a behind the scenes routesetting report from 5.10’s Chris Danielson. Another year, another excellent competition for the American Bouldering Series!  ABS 11 Nationals, hosted at Sportrock in Alexandria, Virginia, had the 5.10 “Alex Show” continuing yet again, with A.P. and A.J. battling it out again for 1st place.  Puccio took the win after flashing Final #4, leaving her with the same number of ascents as A.J., but with one less fall overall. 

On the Men’s side, Daniel Woods was as impressive as he’s ever been, showing the pure power and confidence that determined a second straight ABS Nationals win for him.  Making his strongest showing in a major competition in years, east coast hero and 5.10 athlete Ol’ Man Bosley put some serious grit into his effort, which awarded with a 2nd place finish.  When Matt turned around and faced the crowd in the middle of a crux move of Men’s Final #2, he looked to be in pure fun mode.  A number of athletes seriously struggled through this section that Bos crushed with ease, and his casual smile as he caught me watching from the top of a ladder in the crowd, forecasted his strong finish for the night.

For nearly a decade I have been a part of high level bouldering events in the US, and with every event our team is constantly working to improve and perfect the art of routesetting.  Few people see much of the behind the scenes of an event like ABS Nationals or understand the unique challenges that go into the process.  This year we took the walls from the World Cup in Vail straight out to Virginia, and apparently brought the mountain weather with us.  The east coast was dumped on for a week straight, and during that week prior to the event, our crew was building competition walls inside of Sportrock’s great new climbing wall space.  The gym had a lot of existing steep terrain so we decided to construct a fair amount of slightly overhanging walls, to create some diversity in the climbing.  We decided we couldn’t go to all this work to add so much climbing for the comp without adding some slab, so I played erector set for half a day and our team constructed The North Face SLABalicious wall.
Once we had the walls up, it was all about the climbing action.  

My good friend and fellow 5.10 team member Jamie Emerson and I have been working events like these for many years together, and his description of our role is a thoughtful one – our job is to deliver a show wherein the best climbers in the world can showcase to the masses their incredible ability in the most exciting way possible.  This is demanding and technical work, but letting us loose is also kind of like letting kids run wild in a candy store.  In routesetting terminology, we had shadow-walking on slab, helicopters, la rose, feet-first toe hooks, an iron-cross move dubbed the crucifix… and, even though it was a bouldering comp, I even got a knee-bar in there for the ladies.

Creating these climbing movements is profoundly fun for us, but also incredibly challenging.  For every sequence we put on the wall, we are imagining dozens of possibilities or variations, basically trying to Nostradamus the whole event many times over, all the way down to the minutiae of how countless individual competitors may or may not do specific moves and if so, exactly how they will succeed or fail.  In order to do our job well and watch our friends show off their climbing prowess while dividing them fairly in the realm of competition, we have to spend a great deal of time trying to understand every intricacy of the movements of climbing itself.  

ABS Nationals 2010 was no exception.  The fact that we build this movement on the wall anew each time is why I enjoy it so much.  I have so much fun seeing my friends come out and menace their way up our little creations, I forget that the routes will be stripped down as soon as the competitors are done… never to be climbed again.  For the crew behind events like these, the process of routesetting is a great passion and I am psyched to be so deeply involved in this aspect of our sport.  Congratulations to all the competitors and the US Bouldering Team – see you in Vail for the World Cup!


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