SCA Nationals #lifebehindthewall

climber at SCA Nationals
Dan and Rom at Urban Climb
Dan and Rom Wednesday Morning

There have been some really great write ups about the recent National Lead titles at Urban Climb. It has been really wonderful to reminisce on my week away with Romain and the crew from Urban as we prepared for the competition, ate and slept little and fretted over who will fall off where…….. But that is the life of a competition route setter…….. But the route setters never get write ups, we hide, in the darkness, behind the wall. So, for a brief moment, come with me on an adventure into the dark art of setting!

Romain looks at me cheerfully as we ride the train to Urban

It is 4am and Romain pulls up in his old Volvo. We are meeting in Brunswick to catch a cab and then a plane together to help set at the National lead titles in Queensland. Both of us seem to be night owls, so early mornings are typically hard.

We land, after sleeping intermittently on the 2 hour plane flight, and make our way by train to Urban Climb.  As you can see, we were feeling pretty fresh and ready to set……..

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty standard days, with 8am (or 10am if you are French) starts, and 4 – 5pm finishes. Setting and testing the climbs usually has to die down in order to keep the routes and their beta secret before the competition.

As the end of Thursday drew nearer, there was a little hushed panic as we noted that the Open A finals remained incomplete, with a shipment of holds and volumes, specific for these finals, having not turned up yet! The most important of which were the two stalactites that were to be the main centrepiece of the finals! Joining the two walls and making for the epic finish!…… Fingers were crossed.

Friday started early and was pretty focused on testing all the climbs and making sure that they served their intended purpose. Most of us, after numerous days on rope setting and moving holds, wee understandably fatigued. Sam Bowmen in particular had probably climbed over 20 pitches of 25+ in the last 2 days and was beginning to loose his voice!

the setting and event gang
Lunch at the Burrito Place, Looking pale

By 4pm, the holds had arrived! We were out eating burritos, so we finished lunch (turning out to be our only meal for the day, except the delicious yoghurt sachets that were at Urban Climb) and ran back to the gym!…… Well we actually ran back before lunch to help unload the truck with President Rob LeBreton himself!

So here we were, it was 5pm and we had until tomorrow morning at 7 am to set, test, tweak and then hide the Open A finals, and I tell you what, we used every minute.

Dan in the high lift
Dan, our fearless leader

It was 6am by the time we finished. Dan and Rom stayed at the gym to have a nap and I trundled back to the white mansion of Issac, Blair and co. to have a shower and return. By the time I got back, Rom and Dan were asleep upstairs, but the first competitors had arrived! …….. I napped for 45 minutes……..

I walked / rolled down the stairs to all the excited faces, beaming up at the walls, wondering which one was for them!….. The rest of the day you know….. People climbed, people fell, and not to make light of any of it! It was tremendous! I loved every second of it! But you were there…… So……..

Doors closed at some time in the afternoon / evening. I don’t remember clearly by this point, after a bajillion coffees and even a Red Bull or 3. I would also like to make a note that Sam had added to his climbing total at least another 15 pitches of 25+ and as many Red Bulls!

We started again! The job was to re-assess the finals and make prep anything that we needed to for tomorrows open competition, such as ropes, draws and the like. Arguments and assessments of the final slab problem in the male open A final had us working until 2:30, where I promptly fell asleep sitting on the floor, awakened by Rom and Dan yelling at me…….. ‘ Will, is this ok!?’ I opened my eyes, climbed it in my mind and responded ‘Yep!’…………. I think we had all reached a stage of delirium, taking holds on and off and climbing and testing and tweaking and climbing and………… drinking Red Bull……….. Sam by this point had fallen asleep in a tent. He woke up rambling about testing the Open finals….. but we sent him home.

By 3:30, it was done. I managed to sleep under someones jacket for an hour, waking up to take photos and remove holds. We were good, I hoped…… prayed…..Because I was pretty spent. Massive props to Rom, Dan and Isaac for making it through the hour and a half that I was out for!

The HRT Stalactite in all its glory

Another day, fuelled by coffee, adrenaline and of course Red Bull. Sam had completely lost his voice, plus all the colour in his face, with my voice slowly disintegrating too

. Before we knew it, it was finals time and Rom and I mounted the lift to ram the holds back onto the walls for finals! Everything ran smoothly….. sort of……. the holds were back on, the lift was away and the climbers began.

Hopefully you got a chance to watch and read about finals already, because I’m not going to tell you about them. I finished the 5 days with 20 hours of sleep and 3 meals, but I tell you what, I felt more energised and full of psych then ever! Watching people put so much into every climb, every attempt, every hold tweak and every sleepless hour is inspirational.

Standouts for me were –  (not including climbers of course)

Sam, 30+ pitches of 25+ climbing in 3 days with maybe 2 hours of sleep! Legendary!

Rom, I could kill you sometimes, usually at 4am when you want to change a whole climb, but you can be a real comp setting genius.

Dan, the fearless leader, that smile, that calmness! I will set for you again in a heart beat…. and of course that crazy vision of stalactite mounting glory! EPIC……

– I hope you enjoyed a sneak peak into the life of a route setter….. it can be tough…… but what a job! .