Last week I was on a high with love for route climbing, but then I took a dabble back to the root thanks to a visit from Neil. He has no love for anything much beyond 3 metres so I decided a day out bouldering wouldn’t do any harm.

We headed up to Silvretta as I was keen to show him a problem I’d told him about and also so I could finish off a couple of things that I left undone. Unfortunately the plan didn’t unfurl quite as expected. Neil wasn’t overwhelmed and I struggled with my skin. I had some good goes on British Airways, 8A, but the pain from the small crimp on it was too much to bear. I climbed the meat of the problem, but had to add in 4 moves at the start which are about font 6C. They make no difference to the grade, but all the difference to the line. I wanted to do it so badly that I pushed a little too hard on the crimp front. The problem revolves around one hard (read; painful) move from a small crimp which is just under a small overlap of rock. This sharp hold becomes doubly painful because as you try to crimp it you find the tops of your fingers being wedged into the rock. This tweaked something on my middle finger and so eventually I had to give up, which was a welcome relief as it was more sunbathing weather than anything else. I’d kind of hoped to get back on Anam Cara but by this point lying on a pad in the sunshine was pretty much about all I could muster up…

_MG_0820 as Smart Object-2

Too Young to Die – A warm up at Silvretta (thanks to Dominik for the pic)

The following day I rested in preparation for a couple of days climbing at unknown places with unknown people. It sounds awfully mysterious but in reality it’s simply down to a lack of organisation on my part. There were plenty of options and I covered all my bases when I set off on Friday morning. I had a bouldering pad, a rope, 2 harnesses, a sleeping bag, and plenty of drive.

There was a third option to add to the list of bouldering or climbing which I was entertaining. Over the last couple of weeks, whilst driving up to the Zillertal, I’d noticed a poster advertising some local bouldering competition in Mayrhofen and it just so happened that it was on Friday. I was keen to go climbing, but the routes would be there in 2 days and the comp wouldn’t. This would be a good chance to accrue a bit of experience in the world of competition climbing and so I figured I’d stop by and see what the score was. If it looked good I would take part and if not I would press onwards to the delights of the rock.

After bumping into some guys I knew, I found out it was possible to register for the competition and so I did just that. The qualification was on Friday afternoon, then the semi’s on Saturday morning followed by finals in the afternoon. Qualification consisted of 8 problems and I ended up doing 7 of them, before deciding to leave the 8th as I was fairly sure I’d done enough to qualify. Comp tactics… something I’m beginning to learn much about. Friday night should have been an early one, preferably spent in a comfy bed, but instead I took James advice. Earlier he’d text me some very important advice, which he seemed to think would help me get by in the competition. It read “Do the exact opposite of whatever you normally do and you’ll be fine”. Wise words. With those words in minds I ended up staying in Mayrhofen until quite late and then drove up the valley and slept in the car on what turned out to be less then even ground.

Saturday morning my body was as fresh as a wilting rose, but my mind was as sharp as a razor, so I was feeling ok. The semi’s began and it was run in the same style as World Cup’s, with 4 problems and 6 minutes to do each one. I went out 6th and was feeling pretty good at that point. The first problem looked basic with only 2 possible sequences. I went up it, committed to the sequence which my body automatically chose, and ended up flashing it. A great start. James advice was coming to fruition! I then had a good long rest before the next problem. Even though I haven’t mentioned it, it should come as no surprise that my skin was rather awful coming into the semi’s, but chalking up every 30 seconds seemed to be doing just enough to keep the grease at bay. Problem number 2 looked ok too, and revolved around a single hard move from a sloper. I envisioned crushing it, but the reality of the situation was rather different. It was as if my skin suddenly took a nosedive and I could get zero purchase on the crush sloper. It was a little frustrating, but I only had myself to blame. If I’d been more efficient in qualification (like the top guys) I wouldn’t have these skin issues. Six minutes elapsed and I’d not managed it, so I prepared for the next one. The 3rd problem was a slab/wall with one hard move from a fat pinch… one again something that did suit my strengths. Unfortunately the super high foot position didn’t, but the real problem by now was more a combination of my weeping skin and the blazing sun. Problem 3 – negative. So on to number 4. In every competition it seems there is a problem revolving a double dyno and this was number 4. It took me a few tries to nail the jump and then I was soon at the top. After I’d finished I stuck around to watch the rest of the competitors and I was really impressed by what I saw, especially by Lukas Skywalker Ennemoser. It turns out the 1st and 2nd were the hardest, with the 3rd and 4th being easier. I really should have done the 3rd problem but it turned out that I read it somewhat wrong and I’d dropknee’d the wrong way, which was why I couldn’t generate enough distance for the long reach. Live and learn! To make the final you had to do 3 problems and perhaps on a different day it would have been possible, but in the end I finished in 12th place. The top 6 went on to the final and what a final it was. Well set problems, great music, and the top guys were separated by a gnat’s whisker. In the end a very strong guy from Innsbruck, Mario, took the title, with Lukas coming second and Stu coming third (still representing The Queen!). Stu climbed really well and I thought he was a little unlucky not to do better, so I’m looking forward to hopefully going out climbing with him a bit as it’s clear I have much to learn.

What struck me was the difference between comps in the UK and this one. The problems here were set with nice holds, featured good moves, and didn’t assume that having power was a bad thing. I didn’t much enjoy the BBC competition in the UK as power was something that took a backseat to either being super flexible, holding horrific volumes, or using nasty holds! This comp was much more my kind of thing, with a good combination between finesse and power… much like the style of climbing which I love so much.

Overall it was a great experience and I’m glad I ended up doing it. The rocks are still there and my desire to get out on them is still the same. One amazing thing that has surely come from my route climbing is the fact that I didn’t get pumped during the competition. It was quite amazing actually, as I was able to try a problem and not have an intense pump when it came to the next one. Route climbing is having so many benefits for me right now and I really do think that when I return to bouldering I’ll have moved up a notch. I hope the future confirms my thoughts…

Oh yeah, one more thing. I later found out that this bouldering competition wasn’t exactly a local comp that just happened to be taking place in the Zillertal, it was the Austrian Nationals. Probably best that I didn’t know beforehand…

Photos to follow when I find them…