Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fernie Boulder Bash 2016!

Like much of the rest of the world, the climbing universe is becoming increasingly interconnected by social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and email interact to ensure that climbers around the world keep in touch, sharing where they are, what routes they've climbed, and what time they can meet at the cafe on main street to hook up for a day of bouldering.

Competitions are no exception to this trend.  Information about competition schedules, who's going to attend which events, and who has space in their car for the drive are all rapidly disseminated via the world wide web.  This January, it was precisely these social media channels that brought me word of a local competition in Fernie at the College of the Rockies.  I knew the CotR had a small bouldering gym (though I had never seen it), and I was curious to check it out.  I love supporting locally-driven comps; they are invariably organised and run by people who are genuinely excited to bring an event to their community.  I have organised several similar competitions myself, and love the sense of friendly competitiveness and camaraderie at events like this.

As such, the afternoon of January 15 saw Kyle, Jonas, Jordana, and I heading west toward the continental divide despite ice fog and treacherous roads.  As we drove though the Crowsnest Pass the roads dried up and the fog lifted, and we headed down into Fernie as the sun set.

We arrived at the College of the Rockies to find a surprisingly large (and excited!) group of competitors awaiting the start of the 2016 Boulder Bash.  Once everyone had arrived, the head organizer James Boldt ran through the rules.  The format of the competition was fairly standard, with one major exception; although the bouldering gym at the CotR is a decent size, there is very little space to stand and spectate.  As such, climbers would rotate into the climbing space to try a problem, and then would head back to the holding room (which featured climbing movies, candy, and bottled water - fantastic!).

Trying to get a glimpse of the action at Boulder Bash 2016!

Who are all those bearded boulderers?  Morgan Dunnet, Trent Hoover, and Kyle Marco watching a problem go down at BB 2016.

Although this format made it difficult to warm up properly and limited how much you could watch other climbers climbing, we very much enjoyed the problems and the smooth organisation of the event.  All the organisers and setters - including James Boldt, Patty Villasenor, Brian Wong, Dana and Michelle McMahon, Tanya Foster, and Morgan Dunnet - had done a great job of providing fun problems ranging from V0 to about V8.  The wall at CotR is a nice height (15+ feet), which made for pleasantly heady problems.  Kyle and I matched each other problem-for-problem with only a few exceptions (I did one moderately difficult problem that Kyle didn't dare to try on account of a shallow pocket, and Kyle actually tried the comp's hardest problem whereas I backed away from it (it looked hard!!)).  I almost fell on a hard reach-down-and-match-on-a-sloper move on the hardest problem I sent, but pulled through to the end, buoyed up by the cheers of climbers I had only just met.

After the dust had settled and the scoresheets tallied, the climbers of Lethbridge had represented themselves very well; Kyle and I placed first and second in the Mens Experienced category (I was nominally ahead on points because of the crimpy pocket problem that Kyle hadn't dared try with an injured finger), Jonas had placed second in Men's Intermediate, and Jordana had won the Women's Beginner category. James Boldt passed out the abundant draw prizes to much laughter, and thanked all the competitors and organizers.  Fernie certainly has a fun climbing community, and it was great to have the chance to meet some of them!

Competitor pulling through the steepest part of the bouldering wall at the College of the Rockies at Boulder Bash 2016.

Although climbing comps are dedicated to friendly competition among climbing friends new and old, I would also like to complement Boulder Bash 2016 on having a great range of door prizes as well.  In fact, I won the coolest prize I've ever been awarded in 20+ years of climbing competitions - a "King of the Wall / Boulder Bash 2016" t-shirt.  So if you're ever in Frank Slide, and a guy walks by wearing a gold-and-green "King of the Wall" shirt, don't hesitate to introduce yourself and ask for a spot - I'm always glad to meet new climbers!    

Finally, I'd like to thank Michelle and Dana McMahon for all the photos!  Thanks a bunch!

 Keeping it tight on Problem 48, the hardest problem sent in the competition.

James Boldt, the most cheerful competition organizer in the world!  Congratulations to James and all the volunteers and setters - you did a fantastic job!