Anatomy of a climb

As I mentioned Friday, we were due to drive down to Seattle for the 2010 Seattle Bouldering Challenge (SBC) on Saturday, but I wasn’t really sure if we’d be able to make it given the icy, snowy conditions.

Well, we decided to go for it, about 10 minutes out of town the snow was all gone, and so we were on our way.

This was Julian’s 2nd time participating in the SBC (read about the first here), he climbed really well, and courtesy of a friend who was there with a camera, we have some great photos of the comp. In particular, there are some cool shots of a sequence of moves near the end of one of the routes he completed that made me think it would be interesting to explain what was actually going on.

As I started to write this, I realized just how much climbing jargon I might need to use, and so I put together the brief glossary of terms you see here.

In this first photo, Julian’s about 10-15 feet up on a 60-degree overhang, he’s got two good footholds, his right hand’s on an easy jug, and he’s gripping a decent crimp with his left. For this boulder problem, he can only use holds marked by purple-colored tape, and you can see the finish hold up and to the left in the red circle. He will need to match the finish hold and look down at the judge to make sure her/she can tell that he’s got total control on that last hold.

Next, you can see that Julian had to make a big move with his right hand, up to a deceptive looking hold (the top is actually a sloper, and vertically it’s a difficult pinch), quickly shifting his right foot to the hold that his left foot had been on, all while holding on to that crimp with his left hand and no hold for his left foot before making his next move.

This was a potentially confusing problem, because there was another route on the wall to the left marked by lavendar-colored tape, and Julian could not use those holds.

In this photo, you can see that Julian’s next-to-last move was another big reach, a campus move, wherein he had to remove his left hand from the crimp it had been on and reach up and over to the big finish jug. In order to do that, for a moment, he had to hold all of his weight with his right hand on that one slopey pinch, and as he swung his torso to the left it caused his feet to come off the wall and swing in the opposite direction.

For climbers, it’s incredibly important to control those swinging legs, requiring enormous arm strength and engaging many muscle groups in the torso. If the legs swing for too long, the arms get tired quickly, and it’s hard to regain control and prepare for the next move. For this reason, this would be considered the crux of this problem.

Here you see Julian’s legs coming back to perpendicular…

…and then he reaches the finish hold for a match before jumping down.


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