The Ins and Outs of Competitive Bouldering Blog Feature

By: Hunter Price

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The Ins and Outs of Competitive Bouldering

Comp Climbing

Bouldering is an exhilarating and accessible form of climbing that many of us have tried, or at least seen, at our local gyms. We highly recommend it if you haven't given it a go yet! Bouldering walls are typically shorter, ranging from 10 to 18 feet, with a thick mat underneath to catch you when you fall. No ropes are involved, so when you fall, you simply get back up and try again from the ground.

With an exciting international climbing competition on the horizon, let's dive deep into what the bouldering events will look like and what makes them so captivating.

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Bouldering Competition Format

In major bouldering events, climbers face two rounds: a qualifying round and a finals round, each with their own unique set of boulder problems. These problems are kept secret from the competitors to test their problem-solving skills. The objective is to complete each boulder problem in the fewest attempts possible.

Scoring System:

  1. Tops: The climber who tops (reaches the designated finish hold) the most boulders wins. Each top is worth 25 points
  2. Zones: Each boulder has 2 bonus holds, called the "zones," located in a tricky section. If a climber reaches the zone but doesn't top, they still earn points. Each zone is worth 5 points
  3. Attempts: If climbers have the same number of tops and zones, the number of attempts to reach these holds is considered. Fewer attempts mean a higher score. This is calculated as -0.1 points for each fall and is only subtracted if a climber reaches a zone or top on that problem.

For example, if one climber tops a climb on their first go (also known as a flash), another tops the climb in 3 attempts, and another reaches zone two in two attempts, they will place first (25pts), second(24.8pts), and third(9.9pts), respectively.

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Key Rules and Strategies in Competitive Bouldering

  1. Control Matters:
    • To score, climbers must be in control when touching the zone or top hold. For zones, this means touching the hold without being in motion (no slapping while falling). For tops, both hands must be in contact with the final hold for about three seconds.
  2. Use of Holds and Walls:
    • Climbers can use any part of the wall that isn't taped off. This includes other walls, volumes (large climbing features), and even bolt holes in holds. However, bolt holes without attached holds are off-limits.
  3. Counting Attempts:
    • An attempt begins as soon as a climber's feet leave the ground.
  4. Time Constraints:
    • Each climber has four minutes to complete each boulder. If time runs out before they reach the top, the attempt doesn't count, even if they are a second away from completing it.
  5. Zones as Tiebreakers:
    • While reaching the zone isn't required, it can be crucial in tie-breaking situations. Skipping the zone is risky because it might make the difference between advancing or not.

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The Challenge of Competition Bouldering

Competition bouldering problems are notoriously tough. They aren't graded like regular gym problems and can test many different climbing techniques, which adds to the challenge. It's not just about physical strength and technical skills; climbers also need to excel at reading the problems quickly, performing under pressure, and adapting their strategies in front of a large audience within a tight timeframe.

Watching athletes navigate these complex problems with grace and determination is truly inspiring.

Get Excited!

As we approach summer climbing competitions with bouldering, we're eager to see the world's best climbers take on challenging boulders. Their skill, strategy, and tenacity will be on full display, making for an electrifying competition. Whether you're a seasoned climber or new to the sport, these bouldering events are sure to captivate and inspire. 

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