Sometimes it’s funny the times when inspiration, optimism and courage hit, as if life is playing some dark joke on you by giving you gifts you have no energy to use….. I find myself sitting in Perth airport writing this, slowly coming down from the high of the last week of setting and competition. It’s nearly midnight and I will be landing back home in Melbourne at 6am, just in time to catch the morning and get ready for another day. I hope and pray that I won’t have a busy day and can maybe nap after lunch, however unlikely, the thought spurs me on.
The climbing scene here (in Perth) is different to the east coast, but different isn’t always worse. It is definitely a younger feeling scene, but there are definitely some serious things gong on.
I had the pleasure of setting an entire world cup style competition with a guy called Alan Pryce. Just as a little bit of staging, Alan is no stranger to competition setting and is quite the competitor, with a podium at the most recent Australian National boulder championships, so he knows what he’s doing….. like really knows.
In two days Alan and I set, tested, tweaked, marked, stacked and then re-set almost 80 boulders. Running 5 boulder qualifications, 4 boulder semifinals and 4 boulder finals for 6 categories, with each category enjoying completely clean lines. for each and every boulder.
I remember on the Wednesday before we started setting, Alan welcomed me at the airport and we shared the usual formalities of hello’s and how are you’s. Having no real idea of what to expect, except that I was going to help set a comp, I began to ask a few questions about what the schedule would be and how it would work. When he told me, I’m pretty sure I must have choked or gone silent, peering over at Alan to see his rye smile, thinking to myself ‘that’s nuts’.
For the uninitiated, I’ve now set for a handful of national events, and at last year’s national titles, we had 6 setters and we set around 80 boulders in about 5 days. So to say that this was going to be some work was probably an understatement. In addition to just the setting time pressure, due to the nature of the competition, the boulders had to be pretty specific to the field, with each one serving a very decisive purpose.
To my great surprise and infinite pride, we managed to finish the set almost ahead of schedule, with an enormous amount of help from the Hub crew when it came to stripping and tagging, along with some absolute ripper problems from Alan’s Partner Christina. Surprisingly, however, I don’t really want to talk about the schedule of setting, but the style of setting and the standard that’s hidden away (or so it feels) in the west, that is being driven by Alan and his crew.
Not wanting to blow my own horn, because to be honest, I think it really came down to Alan and the Hub….. The setting was really good. I mean, from an objective point of view, we had great splits, plenty of tops in the qualifications by the entire field, boulders that were climbed the way they were set (except for a couple, but I mean, that guy was enormous!) and some serious psyched fields that were really just raving about the comp! Like really serious psych! So much psych that not only did the competitors not stop climbing even after their fingers started to bleed, but with bloody tips, they couldn’t stop smiling and raving and being….. well…… psyched! There was some serious carnage too. For anyone that missed the live feeds, we spent a good 15 minutes cleaning blood off of the men’s 3rd final boulder.
And this is where the scene is really something. It’s so amazing to see so many people so psyched about competitions. This world that the Hub is is truly something. I mean, you find psyched climbers everywhere you go. Some are loud and some are quiet, but for the most part, they are all psyched about different aspects of climbing. I know that back home in Victoria there are definitely those that love to climb outside and those that love to crush plastic, but even in that, when it comes to competing, even some plastic climbers stay away. Maybe it’s the people, or maybe it’s the persistent focus of high quality that is pursued here that drives it. I mean, I have NEVER seen this type of comp for 6 categories, run like this ever in Australia. No boulder jam qualifications, no clutter, just clean, exciting lines….. And maybe that’s what it is too. How often do you get to climb on clean, inspiring, uncluttered lines in Australia?
I guess this is where the inspiration and optimism comes in. I feel pretty shattered after the week, following it up with a gym re-set and then a climbing clinic was tough but I just feel psyched. I feel invigorated and I feel optimism for my craft. I’ve found this courage to really want to push the boundaries of what I thought was achievable and the standards and ideas I thought were plausible. Mostly because I have seen the results of it.
There is this huge new movement in Australia and possibly around the world, where ‘normal’ people, people who don’t really align with ‘climbers’ are heading indoors and bouldering. The appearance and sets of movements are inspired, but not limited by rock and so we are seeing some incredible things happen. We are beginning to see setters and boulder gyms become coveted climbing spots and problems, just like world-class outdoor spots were/are. You’d be hard pressed to find an avid indoor boulderer that hadn’t heard of Stunwerk for instance and dreamed of climbing within its walls. This new movement makes the idea that Alan is pushing, and the standards he is setting all the more exciting and important for Australian climbing.
Still, I’m happy to be going home after plenty of travel already this year, but I also can’t wait to come back. Alan and the guys at the Hub know what’s up and Catalyst next year I know will be even better than this year, whatever that will look like…. So my suggestion is to book it in your calendar, because if it does for you what it’s done for me, you’ll probably be wrecked, but man you will be motivated!