Sunday, 8 January 2017

My 2016 Route Setting Diary Highlights

So 2016 has been another busy year for me with competition route setting. I love it! The highlights have to be setting for the IFSC Lead World Cup in Briancon and being chief route setter at both the British and Irish lead Climbing Championships. There are of course other smaller fun comps that I love setting for and would like to include them all but then this blog would go on forever, so here are a few of the highlights 2016 had for me in route setting.

 Getting some Volumes on For a Comp Final © Paul Alexander at Tokyo Magic

February was the bouldering comp called the "Superbloc" which was held during the Guardian Outdoor Show 2016 at the massive exel exhibition centre in London. We set all the problems in a aircraft hanger 2 weeks before the competition because the wall was only installed the day before the actual comp! There was an impressive line up of British climbers from all around the country and a huge crowd of climbers and non-climbers to watch the show, the atmosphere was great. It's sad to hear that it will be cancelled from the Outdoor Show for Feb 2017!

 Shauna Coxsey Getting the Only Top on My Female Final 3 at Superbloc ©Chris Prescott

In March Evie and I were asked to come back to Boulder Brighton to set their 3rd birthday party comp, "BB Three". We are regulars setting for this event now and we feel like part of the family, and every year it gets better and better. This year during the setting we were interviewed and videoed whilst we were working. You can watch the full video by clicking on the picture below....
© Think Again Productions - March 2016

For sure the highlight of my route setting year was setting the IFSC Lead World Cup in Briancon France in July. I love this place and I could move there one day! I was on a great team with Marcin Wszolek, Paul DeWilde and Julien Gras. The weather was quite rainy for the finals but they went ahead and the show was great! It always impresses me how dedicated the spectators are to wait out the finals in rain. They love the sport there! It was an impressive double Slovenian win to Domen Skofic and Janja Garnbret.

Testing one of the Women's Qualifier Routes Before the World Cup - Photo by Marcin Wszolek

So for the semi-finals the IFSC chief commentater Charlie Bascoe realy wanted a route setter to co-commentate with him. This is not something I ever thought I would do but the other route setters decided that my English was the best so they put me forward for it. I was so nervous but it went well. You can watch the whole thing by clicking on the image below...
©International Federation of Sport Climbing - July 2017

So September began with White Spider's annual boulder comp called "Send!" which coincided with their 4 year anniversary of being open. I set this with Gaz Parry. White Spider is my local wall and I work there almost every week so it's great to be involved in their biggest event of the year.This year could have been the best yet!

Setting at White Spider - © Paul Alexander at Tokyo Magic

October brought me to Norwich. Every year Highball climbing centre in Norwich put on a really great three day climbing festival with the main event being the Big Flash boulder competition. Even though the centre is quite out of the way, the festival is so good that many big name make the journey to get there. This is great from a setting perspective because the climbers have more experience so as well as the really fun basic boulders I get to set some really intricate problems.

 Me on the left, (Jason on the right) Setting the Men's Semi Final Slab... only Scarpa shoes got up it ;0)

Back up to Awesome Walls Sheffield in September as chief route setter for the British Lead Climbing Championships.This is the 5th year in a row that I have set the BLCC's and the 3rd year in a row that I am chief. This year was a slightly different format with all the qualifications for both juniors and seniors happening on one day and all the finals on the following day. This definitely made the Sunday finals day a lot more exciting and more streamlined from a route setting point of view. It's getting busier every year and can't wait to see what 2017 brings.

Male Senior Champion Jim Pope Getting Ready Before the Jump on the Final Route - ©Phil Borodajkewycz

So over to Ireland in November where I went to be chief route setter for the second year in a row at the Irish Lead Climbing Championships at the Foyle Arena in Derry. On the setting team were myself and two Irish route setters Brian Hall and Ricky Bell. Evie flew over to meet me for the comp and she was a judge for the semis-finals and finals.

Irish Champion Lucy Mitchell on her Second Qualifier and Executing a Rose Move © Paul Dunlop

So to finish up the year in December I decided at the very last minute to actually compete in a boulder comp for a change, instead of always setting them. The comp was Blokfest. I thought it would be a good experience to feel things form the other side, and a good chance to properly try out the new Scarpa Chimeras. There were a lot of very strong climbers there that train nearly every day of the week specifically for comps, including British team members, so I didn't expect much of a result. To my surprise I made it into the finals. There was a massive crowd watching which was nerve wracking and isolation was tense for me because I'm not used to being the competitor. I believe the experience has stood me well for my comp route setting though, and I believe now that it's quite important for perspective.

I might even train a bit and do a few more in 2017! ;)

 Problem 3 in the Finals of Blokfest - Photo by Alex Fry


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