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Blog Post – Campbell Harrison

This year’s Australian National Boulder Climbing Championships were nothing short of spectacular. It marked significant progression in climbing as a sport, and displayed the best of the truly special community that we are all so lucky to be a part of.

Once again the competition, graciously hosted and sponsored by the City of Ballarat, was held on a purpose built wall rather than in a local gym. This made the weekend feel not so much like an obligation of Australian sport climbing, but an event that not only climbers, but the general public, wanted to witness and be a part of. The wall had a unique but effective design that really gave the routesetters a range of options when it came to crafting the boulders. This year’s organisational team should feel extremely proud of their efforts. The fruits of their labour were evident in what was possibly the best climbing National Championship ever!

The youngest youth categories (C and D) kicked off first thing on the Friday morning, followed by Open A qualifiers. In Youth D Henry Booker (International) took the top male spot, with Liam Botting (QLD) taking the title, and Ellisa Andres (ACT). In Youth C, the event was won by Jack Taylor (NSW) in the male’s and Theodora Kasimidou (SA) in the female’s.

The first Open round saw a fantastic split on a really great set of boulders. Seven women were able to finish all five qualification boulders, however in the men it was only Sam Bowman (QLD) and James Kassay (VIC) that successfully tackled each bloc, James doing so in less attempts. Emma Horan (ACT) went forward in the female top spot. The top twenty competitors of each gender went on to compete in the semi final round the following day.

The routesetters turned the dial up to eleven for the semi-final round – perhaps a notch too far in the women’s field. A fairly successful split was seen in the men’s category, with James again being successful in topping each boulder. Only five female athletes were able to put a top on their score sheet, and not a single athlete did so more than once. Each boulder however, was topped, showing the wide range of skills possessed by each individual climber. Emma Horan stamped her mark once again, progressing further in first place. With fourteen year old Sienna Wong, competing in Opens by invitation, making it through to the final, seven places were offered in finals to the women, seeing defending champion Claire Kassay scraping through by the skin of her teeth in seventh place. In the mens, a more traditional six athletes would be competing in the afternoon’s final.

With a mere few hours rest, the athletes were sent back into isolation. In this final round, the Australian National Champions for 2015 would be crowned. Both nerves and anticipation were high, creating an electric atmosphere at the venue. The crowd poured in, and the event was underway.

In a similar manner to the previous rounds, the routesetters had put forward a set of dynamic and powerful problems that gave a reasonable split in both fields. Whilst for the most part the women had a slightly harder set, both categories saw clear placings all the way down the score board. James Kassay and Sam Bowman took it down the the wire, leaving it until the very last moment to decide the winner. With a flash of the final boulder, James took his fourth consequtive National Championship title by only two attempts for a bonus! Sam took second, and Alan Pryce (WA) rounded out the podium in a convincing third place.

The first boulder of the women’s set saw no finishers, leaving the crowd anxious of a repeat of the previous round. However, each problem going forward served its purpose well and made for an exciting final round! Andrea Hah (NSW), one of Australias top rock climbers, showed that she also knows how to crush plastic, taking the win and the National Title. Sienna Wong, a guest competitor from Youth B, stunned the audience and her fellow competitors alike by taking second place a whole two years before she is officially eligible. Wong is certainly one to watch going forward in her career. In third place, Claire Kassay put in a commendable redeeming effort, rounding out the podium. Due to Sienna’s guest status, Sarah Davis (VIC), who put in a solid show, showing the growth she has had since her days as a youth competitor, took third on the official podium, with Claire in second, and Andrea maintaining first.

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The third and final day saw the Youth B, A, and Junior competitors battle it out through qualifications, and for the first time in an Australian National Bouldering Championship, finals, to see who would be crowned Champion in their repesctive categories. Many of these young climbers had also climbed through the previous two days in the Open contingent, and their efforts had certainly taken a toll on their bodies and their minds. During the qualifications each category was to attempt, over the course of two hours, 5 boulders. The top six athletes in each category saw themselves through to the final round.

Seeing Australia’s best young climbers compete in a five on, five off format was incredibly exciting to watch, and proved that it is a posibility to work in this format at future competitions.

In youth B, the male and female champions, respectively, were Sam Lavender (QLD) and Sienna Wong (VIC). In Youth A we saw Olivia Campton-Smith (NSW) and Ben Abel (NSW) take the top spots. Our Junior champions were Roxy Perry (TAS) and Jarred Jordan (NSW). The problems, whilst they were quite hard considering the efforts the climbers had put in on previous days, saw a reasonable split in all categories. The routesetters did a great job making all of these rounds happen, and we are extremely thankful for their efforts.

On this third day we also had our Masters and Open B categories compete, which is always a fun an exciting element of the competition!

This year’s Nationals had an atmosphere and a feel that was different to all others. I can’t quite explain it, but there was a real sense of community and passion that was evident throughout the lead up and across all three days. It should also be said that I’ve never seen so much hard work and dedication go into a single event!

Whoever hosts next year’s National Championships certainly has their work cut out for them!! 😉

Comps, Comps, Comps!

By Campbell Harrison

I’ve been super busy training and keeping up with school at the same time. Recently I competed in a string of three consecutive State Championships: Tasmanian State Boulder Championship, Queensland State Lead Championship and New South Wales State Lead Championship.

Tasmania

The first of the three saw me in Tasmania. I approached this competition with a bit of anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I love to boulder, but I’ve never been particularly successful in competition.

Qualifiers were a bit rough for me. I got my usual boulder competition jitters during the first couple of problems and tunnel vision had set in. However, I still managed to top all the problems and put myself in third place going into the finals. And I was intent on having a better run in the final round.

Observation time revealed a set of five problems, considerably more difficult than those in the qualifying round. The first problem consisted of a slab-to-slab leap across a gap hanging from a small, swinging wooden ball that proved too much for all but a few who managed to nab the bonus, just. I moved forward onto problem two very optimistically, because it looked to be my style. However, just as I moved to match the final hold on my first attempt, I slipped, and I just couldn’t make my way back through the final move of the steep and slightly pumpy problem. Problem three took me four attempts, but I managed to top it, being the only climber to claim victory on the problem. The fourth problem, I flashed. I felt strong and technical, much better than the previous round. The fifth and final problem was ever so slightly overhanging on tiny little edges that I just couldn’t fully take hold of, but I scored myself a bonus in one attempt.

Despite a relatively small number of tops, I was, overall, very happy with my climbing, and I had managed to take out first place with two tops in four attempts. Second place was close behind with one top for one attempt, and the remaining places were decided between bonuses and countback. It was reassuring to know that when I really tried to relax and prepare myself right, I could pull my way through the bouldering comp with a clear mindset and climb strong.

The event was hosted by Rock It Climbing Centre, a shiny new gym that recently popped up in Hobart CBD. As the first state level competition that the gym hosted, the organisers were, of course, nervous, but certainly delivered with an awesome day.

Queensland

My next competition took place one week later at Urban Climb, Queensland. I’d never been to Queensland before, so I was excited. During first qualifier, I called my first ever technical (on the advice of both my belayer and my judge) after falling due to a hold poorly placed under a folded quick draw. After having the draw removed, my second attempt went much more smoothly. I fell in the midst of the final move. The second qualifier ended with a top for myself and a number of others, meaning that I was in equal first for the final. The final was very short with a high crux, and my entire category split by about three moves. I managed to take out Youth A by a plus. That gave me my second Youth A Lead victory this year, continuing a good season in the Youth category.

The Opens consisted of one of the largest fields I’ve seen at an Australian state-level competition. With well over 30 competitors, finals was looking like it might be a real challenge. Luckily, I got through both qualifiers and went into finals again in equal first place with two other athletes, Matthew Tsang (NSW) and Matthew Cochrane (QLD). The trend carried through to the finals, with four of us scoring to the same hold! The fourth athlete, Sam Bowman, had skipped a draw that prevented him from topping the first qualifier, putting him down into fourth place. The remaining three of us were split on time, putting Matt Tsang in third, myself in second and Matthew Cochrane into first. While I had a lot of fun on the route, and I was super happy for Matt, no part of me was okay with my final result in the circumstances, especially after having worked so hard to make myself a slower, more efficient climber. But there was no more I could have done, so I’ve simply moved on and vowed to always climb further.

New South Wales

My last competition of the month was the New South Wales State Lead Championship at The Edge Rock Climbing Centre in Castle Hill. The walls at this gym were much taller than at my last competition, coming in at 18 metres in height. I was perhaps lacking the endurance I’ve had in the past, but one of my strengths in comps has always been pulling through despite being pumped. My first qualifier in Youth A was long, but I managed to find a nice knee bar to take the pressure off before topping the route, followed by a top on my second route, which consisted of mostly positive holds to a final face on small, sloped jibs.

Qualifying again in first, things were still looking up, and I was only a step away from taking victory at every state lead title in the Youth A category. The only thing standing in my way was this one route, and the only issue for any of us, we thought as myself and my fellow competitors mapped out the route from the ground, would be the sequence… Man, the sequence… I worked my way through the majority of the route only to pull myself into the completely wrong position, with my right hand on a hold that I then realised was clearly set as a left. Normally in this instance I panic, desperately try to match the hold and throw for the next with no hope. But I stopped, shook out, and considered my options. Calmly I moved down the route through some tough compression moves, and worked my way back up to a top. My third title was in my grasp. While perhaps I could have climbed better, I was, and still am, infinitely happy with my ability to think under pressure, and knowing that my hard work is paying off.

Opens went well, with double tops for myself and a number of others, bringing it all down to the final, which appeared to be mostly comprised of big, nasty slopers, then on to smaller edges before some big moves to the route’s finish. The men were able to watch the women’s final prior to competing, since our route was in a different section of the gym. Hats off to Lucy Stirling, who topped the route in effortless style, but a special mention to Olivia Campton who put in a stellar effort to place a well-earned second.

The crowd gave me no hint as to how the final was going, so I tuned out completely and tried focus on my climbing. I pulled onto the wall and worked my way through a funky start up to an overhanging delight of slopes and pinches. Each hold felt infinitely better than I had imagined, and I moved up through the route past some crimps into a nice left hand before a big push to what turned out to be a terrible little sloper. I clung to the hold for dear life and somehow, I managed to stay on the wall, bring my foot up nice and high for a final pop to the last hold. Before I knew it, my rope was through the draw and I was done.

I’m so happy with how the past couple weeks have played out. I think I’m climbing better than I ever have before, and I’m managing, so far, to keep my head together amongst it all. There’s so much training to do before I’m truly ready to head to Worlds, and this will be my focus in the next seven weeks leading up to Nationals.

Photo by Naomi Benjamin

This is a version of a blog post originally published at campbellharrisonclimbing.blogspot.com.au. This edited post appears here with permission. Visit Campbell’s blog for more.

Campbell Harrison is sponsored by La Sportiva, Tri-Climbing and ICP.

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Rocklands South Africa 2013

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By James Kassay

After a great trip to Rocklands last year we decided that it was a destination that had to be visited again! So… here we are one year later.

After the World Cups in Europe it was great to have some down time while visiting some of Claire’s family in Plettenberg Bay in the Eastern Cape. After a few days of relaxing, walking and eating it was time to make the eight-hour drive across to Rocklands.

Time is flying by and we have now been here for just under three weeks… Overall the weather has been amazing and sunny with only the odd forced rest day during periods of rain. Last year I spent all the time running around just climbing every problem I could find so there was heaps of mileage but no time to concentrate on anything hard.

This year we have met a great crew of climbers from around the world and it has been great to work some of the classic hard blocks with them. So far I have ticked off a few great problems including flashing ‘The Hatchling’ 8a/V11, climbing ‘Green Mamba’ 8a+/V12 and am really psyched to have ticked off ‘Sky’ 8b+/V14 quite quick. Unfortunately I have been struggling with some skin issues after puncturing a tip last week, all I want to do is climb, but my finger seems to want to bleed… So I’m taping my tip when I can and saving what little skin I have for the big sends when I need all the friction possible!

We now have only one week left here in Rocklands before making the drive back to Plet and starting the journey home… (via some game parks near Johannesburg).

UPDATE 18th June 2013

After a couple of rest days I managed to grow enough skin to keep climbing. I managed to fight my way through Derailed V14 then do Tea with Elmarie V12 second shot then had an unfortunate foot pop at the top on my flash attempt of The Arch V13. (Still have to go back to do that one.)

The following day we went up to the Pass and I had a shot at Amandla V14. It’s a very impressive high steep face with some razor edges on it. After a couple of attempts I found myself past the crux staring at the top holds, unfortunately I hadn’t prepped to get there and just didn’t commit to the move so fell to the ground. The following shot I managed to put a rather deep slice into my finger tip (a different one to last time) So now I am looking at another couple of rest days before I can hopefully climb again. I have managed to super glue the slice together and hopefully that will hold so I can go back and tick it off before leaving on Sunday…

Photos by James Kassay and Claire Langmore

This blog post was originally published at jameskassay.com and appears here with permission. Visit James’ blog for more.

James Kassay is sponsored by Kailas, Evolv, Black Diamond and Beal.