26 Jan 2010

International Bouldering Competition Information

No Comments Comp Information

Competition Format:

Due to the amount of competitors wanting to enter world cup events a two group qualification format is normally used. This allows two groups of competitors to compete at the same time and therefore halve the event time.

To create these two groups fairly the field is separated into two groups evenly based on world ranking; 1st and 3rd in group A and 2nd and 4th in group B and so on down to the unranked climbers who are evenly distributed into groups A and B.

The basic principle of the competition is as follows for both Group A and B an is as follows:

– Each climber has five climbs (boulders / blocs) to attempt.

– They have 5 minutes per bloc and can have as many tries within that time allocation.

– Following this five minutes of climbing is a five minute break. This gives a 5 on / 5 off process.

– The total competition period therefore lasts 45 minutes for each competitor.

– The object is to get to the top of the climb in the fewest attempts possible. i.e. If I got to the top on my first attempt I would be better than someone who did it on their second.

– The secondary aim is to get to the bonus hold (a point of significance but not the top) in the fewest attempts possible.

– After the five climbs have been attempted you therefore have two scores

– Number of tops / Number of attempts to top – i.e. 5 Tops / 10 Attempts or 5/10

– Number of bonuses / Number of attempts to bonuses – i.e. 5 bonuses / 12  Attempts or 5/12

– On a score board it would look like the picture.

 Basic Rules:

The start, bonus and Finish holds are marked using coloured pieces of tape. The judge for each climb will highlight these holds but not give any indication on how to climb it.

To complete a boulder legitimately you must hold the final hold with two hands in control. The judge will then say ‘OK’ to signify it is OK to drop down and that you have been successful.

To gain the bonus hold legitimately you must hold it in control similarly to the finish hold.

An attempt is only valid when you pull onto the wall holding the correct handholds and footholds.

Black tape is sometimes used to close off sections of wall that are out of bounds. If you go into these areas your attempt is void and the judge will call you down.

Yellow / Red Cards – Similarly to football they are disciplinary measures for indiscretions and used by the chief judge. Usual uses are for swearing, kicking chalk bags and offending judges.

Phases of an International Bouldering Competition:

Technical Briefing:

Usually the day before the event this is where the head route setter, judge, organisers and delegates inform team managers and competitors of any key information. This usually includes information on the wall, isolation, timings and Q&A.


As competitors we are not allowed to see the climbing wall, holds or routes before we climb them. Isolation is an area away from the competition where we are held and allowed to warm up before being called out to climb.

If the Competition starts at 10am Isolation would be around 8am-9am. Once isolation closes no-one can come in or out.

It is a very stressful place as you are basically just waiting for your chance to compete. The length of wait is dependent on your world ranking. Number 1 goes out first and the unranked people last. I have known people to be in iso for over 9 hours.

Imagine a place that is hot, uncomfortable with limited food and drink and  watching climbers who are much better than you warm up for hours. You are not allowed to communicate with the outside world so no phones, laptops etc either. Then factor in the size of the warm up area (tiny) add to it the number of people (lots) and you get an idea for what it’s like.

Iso to Comp Transition:

This is the final area where you wait before going out to compete on your first climb. You can normally expect about a 5-15 minute period.

I personally like this time as it gives you that final rest and psyche up time. You can also hear allot of what is going on in the comp by listening to the crowd and competitors screams. This information can be invaluable for gauging what you need to try and do in the comp in order to qualify for the next round.

Problem to Problem Transition:

After either completion of a boulder or the end of the five minute period (whichever comes first) each competitor goes back into temporary Isolation for their five minute break.

Again you can hear allot of what is going on in the comp by listening to the crowd and competitors screams. This information can be invaluable for gauging what you need to try and do in the comp in order to qualify for the next round.

If you manage to do your boulder in under the five minute time allocation you get the benefit of increased rest. E.g. If I flashed the boulder in two minutes I would get the remaining three minutes and then the following five minutes rest – Total 8 minutes. This is where it pays to get things done quickly and often why you have to get off to a good start on the first boulder.

Results Wait:

In a field of sometimes 100+ if you climb early you have to wait all the way to the end of the comp to see if your result is good enough to make the top 20 cut. If you’ve done badly you pretty much know early on as all the strong guys have already climbed and their results posted. However there can be random unranked strong people at the end of a comp who can do well.

In Sheffield 2011 world cup I was in 20th place for 2 hours and had to wait for the very last climber to find out if I’d made the cut.


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Totally obsessed with climbing & training.
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