Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The New Year, Another Go.

Hey guys and welcome back, this is 2013 and my new years resolution was to try and get my blog updated every time I set a comp. I know what you're thinking and I was always a little late last year in letting you guys know what I've been up to BUT NO MORE. No, this is the new year, this is a different year, I'm one year older but twice that in responsibility right? Well, lets not get ahead of ourselves but, sure.

So the really quick and dirty update of the last year is this: I moved to Vancouver to become the Purveyor Of Destiny and Head Route Setter at The Hive Bouldering Gym (which by the way is amazing!) If you live in Vancouver, or even close and you haven't been, get there. You're missing out. I set Tour De Bloc Nationals last year as the only official apprentice position at Vertical Escalade in Montreal. I apprenticed the one and only Jody Miall. I taught two more route setting clinics, one in Waterloo for the good old boys at Grand River Rocks and one at the Beyond The Crux in Kelowna, BC. Um, what else. Oh, I was the Chief of the first ever Tour De Bloc at the Hive in November. Not only was this the first Tour ever at the Hive but this had a first for me too. We, my crew of Andreas Lerch (now officially one of The Hive's very own,) Josh Tuffin of Grand River Rocks, Andrew Coffey, the owner of The Hive and Shayne Russel, Manager of the Hive, plus all of our madly amazing volunteers, set this comp in 2 and a half days. 2 and a half days people!!!! It was insane! I mean yes, we were completely obliterated after and fore running was the single worst thing on the planet but we did get it done. Definitely a first for me (for those of you who don't know usually I get 4 days.) What else? Oh! With the support of The Hive, I flew to the Calgary Climbing Center to help set their Tour De Bloc in Dec. I worked with Chief Route Setter and friend of mine Simon Villenueve, who in case you were wondering is a true baller. Man's got a wife, two kids, two gyms to look after and still manages to crank hard and set like a mad man. It's pretty impressive. I think that's all. I mean, granted there was day to day setting in there and one gnarly week bouldering trip to Leavenworth, Washington where I managed to get into the US with an expired passport (I know, go figure right) and going back to Ontario for the holidays to drive my car back across the country. Yup that about covers it.

Ayo Sopeju staring down the final hold on Men's  Final #3
So now we get into the new and exciting. It's true, this year I have been setting less than last year, plane tickets do that to you. I mean, there are comps out here, and I have been trying to get out to as many as possible but a lot of the youth comps and stuff are more in Ontario and Quebec and lets face it, as much as I want to spray the good ol' "Jet setting and route setting baby," we (route setters) don't actuaally make that baller amount to support that kind of thing. I know, I know, here I was telling you guys how glamorous it is going to other gyms, setting comps, working obscene long days to get what feels like a month of work done in one week while you couch surf from climber to climber's apartment or you just suck it up and sleep at the gym wait.....that doesn't sound glamorous at all does it. Well, it's still a ton of fun and I wouldn't trade this life for anything else!

So I flew back to Ottawa, for those of you who don't know, I used to live there when I was in University way, way back in the day, to help set the Coyote Rock Gym Tour De Bloc. This comp was really, REALLY cool for me. I was really excited to get the opportunity to help out with this for a bunch of reasons:
1. I used to work at this gym. This is the gym that started me down all of this craziness. Competing, Setting, Running Comps, all of it. This is where the spark of motivation ignited the fires of desire. Ha! Oh god that was so lame right. I know most of you just vomitted in your mouth a little bit at how lame that was but you know what, I leave it in there. Just for all of you. Anyways, I've often called this my home gym, the gym where it all began and although I started climbing in Rock and Chalk in my hometown of Newmarket, Coyote was where climbing went from something I did, to something I live (see that, I got another lame one in there.)
2. This is where Jody Miall, one of my route setting and competing inspirations works as the Manager and Head Route Setter. He's been a longtime friend of mine and has been a great mentor to me so I was really excited to be working with him again.
3. Finally, almost every year since the Tour began, this comp has been the biggest, the most epic, the most cash money prizes and the most registrants in all of the Tour. This is by far, in the Eastern Bloc, the DO NOT MISS comp. I've known tons of climbers who don't compete but will go and climb in this comp. Coyote has a very illustrious history of hosting the best comps in Canada and I was really excited to actually be a part of the other side of it this time around.

So I rolled in on Monday night, Jody picked me up from the airport and we went straight to it. I joined a very stacked team of route setters; Kellen Tapley, Freed Caap, Chris Linklater, Alex Bain, Chris de Kergommeaux (thanks Kellen for the correction) and of course, our Jody Miall.

Like all comps, you start with a vision. What do you want? No, the answer to that is not just a good comp. Thanks guys. No, it's more than that. How many tops do you want in finals? What kind finals problems do we want to present to the finals? How do we want qualifiers to go? All of these things go into that and you start talking about it on the first day. We all agreed early on the we wanted a lot of tops in finals, it's always a better show, we wanted to run Men and Women at the same time and we wanted a quick and dirty qualifiers. What I mean by that is every problem should go and for the top 8 competitors in both fields, a lot of them should send the same problems but there should be no ties, it should be broken up by attempts.

And, qualifiers went down just like that. The 8 qualifying men were only separated by only 66 points, with the top 3 being separated by just 5! For those of you unfamiliar with the Tour scoring in the scramble format round, 5 points is the difference between your 1st and 2nd attempt. We had a really really good break down and I think a lot of that comes from knowing the field and tons and tons of fore running. Women's Open was a similar story but they were a little further spread out. Having said that, we still got a perfect break down.

Now, onto the important stuff. Finals. Like I said above, we ran this finals all together. Men and Women, at the same time, classic format (5 min on 5 min off.) Now Coyote is an older gym, nothing wrong with that I'm just saying that there were a couple of small hiccups in the preparation for finals that come with older gyms. Jody Miall did have to go in behind the wall and replace a T-nut because we did pop one putting on an old school, resin, Pusher Boss that probably weighs as much as a full $100 order of polyurethane holds. You know, small things like that but we did have an hour and a half for change over so everything went up pretty casually.

Clarie Lam staring down the last hold of Women's #1
Women's #1, set by Kellen Tapley, found the women cranking out some bad crimps with a cool little come down sequence where you hit the first crimp as a gaston with your right hand. You then crossed up with your left to a BAD, slick crimp and make a delicate move out right to another ok crimp. From here you could potentially throw to the zone sloper with your right but the left hand hold was so bad. What most competitors discovered, and some read right from the get go, was that if you moved your left hand down to that first good crimp you could casually go to the zone sloper. A really cool little forced sequence from Kellen. The rest of the bloc was just a fight on sloping holds to a big move to an UnCarved Block screw on right on the lip of the boulder leading to the top out finish. Really, nothing super spectacular but it created some separation early on, most of the top women qualifiers flashed it but overall a great finals problem with a little bit of trickery early on to keep the women honest.

Carl Desnoyer grovelling out the top of Men's #1
 Men's #1, a Jody Miall bloc, found the men slapping compression and subtle movements out a slightly overhanging bulge of the top out boulder. The bloc was a little tricky to read from the ground, there were a lot of bad sloper, almost all of them in the series of the Climb It Shallow Slopers set. The end of this problem saw the men doing a very technical top out. For most of the men this went pretty desperate as seen in the picture above however, the men that had a lot of experience doing desperate top outs outside made short work of it. I liked this bloc a lot. One of the things I always find hard as a competitor is getting ridiculously psyched up to come out of Iso and rip holds off the wall only to be presented with a bloc like this for #1 where you have to be subtle, slow, collected and focused. It's a very different pace and I like seeing that as a route setter, it breaks that expectation of coming out and just casually doing finals #1, aka, the warm up.
Clarie Lam staring down Finals #2
Women's #2, another Jody Miall bloc, was a simple, yet eloquent bloc that did way more to separate the field then I thought it was going to do. The picture above shows all of #2. Very straight forward, we thought but it's always interesting to see how competitors read blocs in their five minutes. We watched a lot of the girls try to just dyno from the starting hold to that flat, Friction edge. I don't know how many double clutch dyno attempts I saw on this bloc but it was a lot and I want to say almost every women tried to dyno this. Only 3 ladies I think sent this which I think was phenomenal for this bloc. The beta we ran on this was that after making the big move with only your right hand to the big edge, you got a heel on the good jug and matyched the edge. From here you cut your heel and used that momentum to catch the good zone sloper. From here you got your heel up, rocked over and got into the undercling and either crossed or went again to a good crimp finally leading to a jug top out. I was really impressed with how much this separated the field AND I really like how it tricked a bunch of the women into immediately assuming dyno. Although it was a dynamic movement, which I feel should always be in women's finals, I liked that this wasn't a straight up dyno.
Ville Tiukuvaara going to for the final hold on Men's #3

Men's #2, was just to the right of Women's #2, climbing out that roof. This is also one of the two technical incidents in Men's final. You started on two thin underclings and crossed right hand to a good pinch. Once you got your foot up and you through to catch a tooth-style hold and control a pretty involved swing. once you controlled that you brought your foot up and fell in to a decent undercling with your right hand just above that pinch before throwing for the zone hold which was a the Granite Block from Friction climbing. A dirty toe scumb helped you come in to another undercling right below the lip that you used to do a big movve with your left hand to a pinch way up on the face. From here you caught a gaston out right and again, controlling a decent swing, leading to a top out on one of the ugliest holds I've ever seen.

The story behind this hold is that Fred Charon, the head setter of  Allez Up sent this Jody as a joke. I wish I had taken a picture of the back of this hold but basically there's a note from Fred on the back saying that this is the future of climbing hold shapes. Now some of you may be thinking "its not that bad." It's bad. Those nobs you can see there are dual text so they're so slick and gross. Yea. A really bad hold. Anyways, because we predicted that Fred would make finals we wanted to give him something to look forward to when topping out men's #2. Also, we need a top out hold anyway and why not have some fun right? We did contemplate using this as a foot also but the top out hold is just so much more entertaining right?

Marieta Alkaski starting the fight that was Women's #3
Wome's #3 (Kellen) saw the women fight against a giant blue banana feature and 3 Pusher bosses. There's not a lot to say about this problem. I like blocs like this forcing competitors to think outside the box and get them tire in a different way. I mean let's face it, you're not going to get a fore arm pump on this bloc, you're basically going to feel this as a full body suffer. shoving between that giant banana and the bosses. It's more like off width crack climbing then it is pulling on holds. A good change of pace though for the ladies and something you can't really be prepared for, especially when you're sitting with your back to what you know is a vertical wall. You're expecting something maybe thin and techy or slopey and techy and you get this.
Ville Tiukuvaara sticking zone on Men's #3
Men's #3, another Jody Miall problem. When I first looked at this bloc I thought it was a little silly I'll admit but like he always does, Jody showed me how to do a lot with very little. With a total of five holds this bloc created a lot of separation. You started smearing on the wall with a giant jug undercling which sapped a lot of the men right of the bat. From there you stabbed your right foot up to even level with the undercling to catch the first long sloping rail. Once matched, you made a slightly desperate move to a large sloper that wasn't nearly as good as you wanted it to be. The last move was the big deal on this problem, that finishing hold was a mile away at least. Maybe further. And it was a 3 finger pocket from the Climb It Craters series. Some guys pressed out like Ayo did at the top of this post, some tried to just throw for it, what a cool bloc!
Marieta getting into the knee bar on the final Women's problem
The final women's bloc was powerful and dynamic with the opening moves climbing big moves on good holds leading to a GIANT drive by off of Friction mini jugs to a mini jug on that orange triangle volume. After that you hand to shove yourself into a knee bar using the Climb It Power Pinch #1 and another one of their XL Pinches and using this knee bar you matched the Power Pinch and reached way out to the left to get an undercling to go to the finish. I was really happy with the way this bloc turned out actually. The difficulty was just at the right level. The only thing I would change is maybe turn up the end a little. Almost all the women that stuck drive by, topped and I would have liked to see just one fall after the drive by.

All in all I think women's final was a good mix of styles and definitely a different pace for the ladies. There was a little bit of trickiness, some weird form of volume boxing, some dynamic climbing and some straight up burl. I think it was a good mix and the winner Kerry "Briggy Smalls" Briggs really showed that she was the most well rounded competitor. We'll see what happens at the next Tour De Bloc out east, which will be at Grand River Rocks where I'll be joining that crew to be chief. Should be interesting, we'll see what the ladies bring to the table at that comp.

Fellow Flashed Athlete Dave Hareema working out the funki on Men's Final #4
 The final Men's bloc turned out perfect I think. It came down to two dudes, my boys Ayo Sopeju and Yves "the Chainsaw" Gravelle. Broken by attempts. Oh so good. I can feel all you're palms getting sweaty, I know, I know. Ayo was so close on his first attempt, he literally touched the finishing hold. Bah, anyways. Ok so, you started on in the roof on two Climb It Slopers, angled so that you had to start facing out. Had to. I mean a bunch of guys tried to campus the first move by facing into the wall and just hoping that you could stick that next Climb It XL pinch and control the swing with poor opposition while trying to man handle those  two grossly sloping holds but that's all you were doing; hoping. So you started facing out and you got into that position you see above. Start toe hooking and get into a solid enough position that you can come into an undercling just underneath the roof. once you worked out a little more foot beta you could come into the Climb It pinch, cut your feet and campus up to the zone hold which was that giant, old school, Climb It Patina 4XL. Another campus move to a really good sloping undercling got your feet back on the wall and no dangling around, and finally they were underneath you. The end of this bloc was a GIANT move from a crossed over position with your right hand in that Climb It Halo, to the finishing jug. I loved setting this bloc. Starting with some funk, some sapping campus moves and finally the giant throw finish. It really felt like a man's bloc, you know.

As far as men's finals  was concerned I really feel that we did a good job of keeping the men honest in their abilities. I don't think there was anything insanely tricky, no weird volume bloc or anything but overall, we got a perfect breakdown. I really would have liked to see a flexibility bloc for them, I find that's the one skill set that usually gets left out of men's final. I think a lot of male competitors, myself included, have gotten away with coasting through and not having to stretch or work on their flexibility. Gentleman, its a skill set. The ladies gotta learn to dyno, we gotta learn to stretch. In fact, Imma stretch right after this. Maybe...maybe when I go climbing tonight...you get my point.

Congrats to Yves and Kerry again for their awesome win, both members of Coyote Rock Gym Climbing Team so a nice home turf win for the two of them. Full results can of course be found at Tour De Bloc 

Alright, I'm out! Thanks for reading, I'll be head to Abbotsford, BC to Chief up the Project Climbing Center's Tour De Bloc in two weeks, so look for that. Alright guys, stay psyched! Peace!

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