Before I begin, it is important to remember that as a coach, route setter, event organiser and community member, I am always looking for ways to improve the sport. In order to improve, we need to first understand and accept the areas that are letting us down, and how we can turn them from weaknesses into strengths.

I say this, because I am sure that some you reading will at first feel attacked, maybe even offended at my observations and take a stance of defence. So remember, if you want to get better, if you want to improve, you have to stop making excuses, stop defending your position and open up to the idea that things could be better.

So….

Ocea climbing her way to a position just outside of semis with 4 zones

Watching the World championships was both over and underwhelming. The organisation and management of the event was superb. It seems that the Austrian crew learned greatly from the Youth World Championships last year and put on one of the best organised events of this scale have ever been to. But, overwhelmingly, there was an issue with the setting.

The setting was not quite right the entire event. Holds put on in the wrong place, rounds of boulders too hard, routes too easy. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen these mistakes before. I have made these mistakes before. I understand the pressure and the chaos of setting for multi-day events. But in events with up to 16 categories, and climbing abilities across a spectrum exponentially bigger than a World cup, in facilities where we had to share holds between boulder rounds. I’m not trying to flex on the setters at world champs, I am just highlighting the fact that everything was available to them, or at least, the most a team has likely ever had, and still we see setting that misses the mark.

Lucy on the first boulder of the horrendous women’s boulder qualification

 

To me, this is a very clear signal that the processes in place are not appropriate. As I have never set on a World team, I couldn’t tell you exactly what those processes are, but I have set on teams with world cup setters and the organisational processes they use seem to be pretty standard. How routes are organised, tested, tweaked. Maybe the tweaking process needs work? Maybe the freedom of having almost any material you want is too much? Who knows.

I love process and I think it can always be better. Check out my blog after Open Nationals for a deeper look into my ideas around testing and tweaking routes.

Process aside, the next glaring issue, the issue I have battled with since head setting my first national boulders. The women’s routes and boulders. The entire event, the setting team got it wrong. Boulder round qualifications that were too hard, finals that were too hard, final routes that were too easy. I remember lamenting on a similar scenario after Ballarat semis (read more here). Asking female setters to show me how to do it.

I’ll be honest, I have resisted. I have resisted putting more females on setting teams because of their lack of experience, and because I knew that it could create more work for me. I continued to provide a platform for men and resisted giving that same platform to women because I wanted them to get more experience first.

Campbell on the red route where the volume was placed incorrectly, resulting in a restart.

What a mistake. A mistake of epic proportions. I have hindered when I should have supported.

We rejoiced when one female was added to the setting team for worlds. But it’s not enough. Look at the IFSC officials list here

, and tell me how many female setters you see. Not enough. How many head setters were female this season? How many females on the setting teams?

Not enough.

It’s time to progress. It’s time to push forward and ask for better. World championships was not a good competition, particularly for the females and one female setter is not enough.

I think 50% of the setting team next year should be females.

I think 50% of the head setters should be females.

I think the IFSC need to be more transparent with the entire setting teams at events and publish the whole team.

Because it’s not enough to just shrug and say that’s competition.

It’s not enough to accept the status quo. Especially if you want the sport to get better. Thinking you are the best is not strength, it’s weakness because it stops you from ever getting better. And I want it to be better.

Support your female setters because one is not enough. Our community deserves more, our climbers deserve more and our competitions deserve more.

#womensetting

PS. Huge thank you to Team AUS biggest supporter Yvette Harrison for her amazing photography of the athletes during the entire event. You are a superstar!

Gosh, it has been a long time between posts and I can’t decide whether it’s due to being immersed in work, or being partially lazy. I feel like there are grounds for a new word to be developed that covers this feeling….. something like labzy, or busly….. maybe even procrastibusy, but I digress, as always in these blogs.

Complexity and creativity…..

This blog builds on an earlier one “Zen and the Art of Route Setting” which ironically I use the same excuse for delayed blog entries…….Go figure.

Jordyn Damasco working it out at Boulderwelt Ost in Munich. Another great example of some thoughtful creativity

I have been lucky enough to have travelled a great deal this year already, around the nation for some events, social and official, as well as other route setting forays at new and existing facilities. It has been so exciting watching climbing explode in Sydney and it seems set to do the same thing in Melbourne. I have been sitting on videos of both National youth and the Japan world cup that I will endeavour to finish editing and release as soon as I can. And I really have no excuse as I have just begun a 7 week trip in Europe with the Australian climbing team, both youth and Opens.

This travel has recently provided me with a very interesting view of route setting both at home and abroad, which, as you may have guessed, is an interest of mine. One of the recent moments of revelation came visiting B-Pump in Tokyo (Ogikubo). I realised a few simple and important things about route setting. Now granted, this is an opinion piece, I have not done any research here, but through observation and experience, I have developed some ideas…… Which may or may not sit well with you.

Creativity and Complexity reign supreme. Now, this may seem simple enough, but the ramifications are, well, complex. This idea comes from one major observation, where people climbing recreationally get the most excited and obsessed about climbs they are ‘close’ to. Which really translates to: “physically possible for me, but I just need everything to go right”. Which means there is something that they cognitively or physically need to ‘figure out’.

Some Ogikubo class displayed by Yossi and Sam at this year’s Open team training after the Japan World Cup

So, if it takes you longer to put the holds on the wall than it does to come up with the idea of what to do…… you’re not trying hard enough. In Ogikubo, they spent 3 days re-setting their central pillar, some 20-30 boulders. Each one was a technical marvel. Complex, creative, enjoyable, varied at each grade, really an immense achievement. Now sure, you may not be in a position to input this kind of man-hours into your product, but then, if you never do, you probably never will. Which means you will probably always be the Kmart of climbing gyms. Quantity over quality. Not necessarily a terrible thing, I mean, people love Kmart, but even when they love Kmart they would probably prefer to buy Gucci, it’s just out of their price range. Not that I think Gucci is particularly good really, it’s just a metaphor ok.

So in practical terms, if you’re a gym and you want to add some real creativity and complexity to your product, the kind of stuff that people really get addicted to, tell their friends about, but you can really only afford Kmart. Pick 3 boulders in your set and spend the time to make them Gucci. Then, after them, fill in the grade blanks with Kmart, maybe with the extra time spent you have 1 or 2 fewer blocks…… but it is worth it. Even if you don’t hit the mark the first time, or second time, or third time, your setters will practise and learn and fail and learn some more and the quality of the product will improve. The complexity and creativity will rise because you are supporting them with time and value in their work. You are taking away the excuse of, “I could have if I had more time” and you are replacing it with, “show me what you got”.

The other thing I discovered while climbing at B-pump, a little more practical and tangible, is this: Good route setting, really good route setting, is all about feet. If your feet aren’t right you fail. This is key. Now, this doesn’t mean that that campus proj in the roof should be stripped, it’s cool, you can leave it, but it’s training, it’s not ‘good’ setting, it’s not really even route setting, just like you don’t call putting up the campus rungs, or the moon board ‘route setting’ right? Put on a hold, then do something with your feet and body so you can reach or use the next hold. This is climbing, this is movement, this is route setting. Creativity and Complexity are masters in climbing, everything else is just exercise.

Stay tuned for the next one. I have some time so hopefully, I will run out of excuses and actually get some of them written! Oh and if you are ever in Tokyo, do yourself a favour and check out B-pump Ogikubo.

As promised, I have put together a short write up from last years National training camp with Tonde in Queensland, when the majority of the Australian youth team, a few Open athletes and a handful of keen setters, descended upon Urban Climbs facility in Milton for a bouldering fiesta.

Granted this is very late, but the lessons learned are still important.

The first thing we tried to get athletes to understand is that this is a game. And the more you think about it, the more you understand how important this is. This idea began with Royal Robbins, outlining the rules of ascension in Yosemite and still holds true for today’s modern competition warfare, save one thing (or 5 in some cases), the “routesetter”.

Will, Tommy and Josh

The trick is this, in competition, and some cases commercial setting too, route setters are not only building physical challenges for your body, but also emotional challenges for your mind. The game has stepped up a notch, with what used to be a simple show of athleticism, is now a complex dance of minimising frustration, allowing space for creativity, performing coordinated stunts and minimising fatigue. Routesetters create a round in boulder competitions to not only provide you with complex climbing problems but a series of emotional traps. Designed to shake you down, frustrate and upset you and break you emotionally. So that by the time you finish, you’ve been sucked into trying the hardest problem 7 times in 5 minutes, you had no energy for the final ‘easy’ boulder and you’re not sure you will ever grow the skin back on your fingers, all because that first boulder had the most frustrating slippery right foot you’ve ever seen and you just can’t help looking back at it everytime you step up to the next boulder.

Sounds rough hey? Well, it is. But there is a certain power when you realise that that’s the game. Make it through without the frustration and you’re already winning (against the setters that is), AND you are putting yourself in the best position to perform your best.

 

Understanding the boulder round

Once we uncovered the tools of the trade to our athletes we provided them with a simple tool to help manage and regulate their time (and emotions) through each boulder of the round. The idea is that you break up the 5 minutes into 5 partitions (one per minute). 1st minute – inspecting the boulder, 2nd minute – 1st attempt, 3rd minute – 2nd attempt, 4th minute – 3rd attempt, 5th minute – attempt only if you are SURE you can top it. Simple enough, but hard to follow, especially when there are a handful of caveats. Dynos and slabs tend to break these rules. Then during your 5-minute rest, the idea is to forget whatever happened in the last 5 minutes and move on.

5-minute guidelines

The two days were really great, with a frustrating single shot round to wake everyone up, followed by a hard semi-final round for athletes to test themselves, learn the rules, try the time management strategy and hopefully do a little better.

Maddies many faces

Huge shoutout once again to Urban Climb, as well as the grand master Tonde.

So there you have it. Everything you need to become an international competitive bouldering star. Well, at least you know the new rules anyway. Next up will be some insights into the recent lead nationals and some of my new thoughts for lead, based on the R.I.C values Tonde shared with me earlier last year.

The end of 2017 was littered with more events than you could poke a stick at, with National boulder titles, the National coaching workshop, the Australian team training in Queensland and setting workshop, and ending with the Chris Sharma Topped Out boulder event at Nomad.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

This is not really how I intended to start this post, hence the heading, but I suppose I’m setting myself up for an excuse as to why it’s taken me so long to post another blog after the WYCH one. Regardless, I’m sorry, I’ve been busylazy (my new word for procrastination linked with an overwhelming amount of work) but I’m back now and I’ve got T-shirts for everyone (special bonus points if you get the Reel Big Fish reference).

So, without digressing any further, the subject matter for this post is

‘Tonde Katyo’

Tonde made a trip down south, supported by our national body, Sport Climbing Australia, to impart his route setting wisdom to Industry professionals through a small handful of setting workshops, Boulder Nationals and a National team training camp. I was lucky enough to be a part of the setting workshop prior to the Australian team training event in Queensland, along with the coaches workshop at Boulder Nationals (a topic for another blog).

There has been a little bit of hype around Tonde over the past 24 months, at least in my circles, talking about how excellent the setting workshops run by Tonde are, and let me tell you that the hype is real. He just has a way of explaining things that dissipates the fog and brings some of the most complex, sometimes esoteric ideas, into simple, crystal clear resolution.

I’d listened to a podcast that interviewed Tonde, where he introduced his ideas around RIC grading and the fact that routesetting is design and not art, so many of the ideas were not completely groundbreaking and new, but the process, the thoughtful and persistent analysis of each piece of design we put forward was inspiring. Does it fulfil the brief? Is it suitable for the intended audience? How does it fit in with the whole? Does it have the appropriate elements of each of the R.I.C scalars? So much analysis of the movement, the emotion created from the interaction, it was like we created a whole new space in which to create and play.

I don’t know if I would say that my setting got better, but it definitely became more thoughtful. Tonde’s words “That’s a thing” kept playing in my head every time I stared at a wall with a drill in my hand. I wanted each boulder to express some idea or feel something when you pulled on. I can also say unequivocally that I took it too far too, with an overwhelming desire for the feeling of “confusion” or “befuddlement” stacking blockers on blockers and layering holds together like a puzzle. Those that climb at Bayside, or on some of my recent boulders can attest to this. I guess when you find something new that you want to explore, you have to take it to some logical conclusion. I’ve subsequently tried to reign in my enthusiasm and focused on what is necessary, rejoicing in the simple as well as the complex.

I suppose the most important thing that I took away from it all though, was that route setting is like any craft. Just as a woodworker is judged not only on the functionality of his piece, he is also measured by the aesthetics, the quality of the joinery, the skill in which he has picked and utilised the grain of the timber and of course the safety of his workspace (because it is really hard to make tables with no fingers……. I would imagine). So much can go into a great product and this focus is exactly what is being pushed for internationally. Quality over quantity.

Because I’d always rather climb a great boulder lots than climb a lot of boring boulders……..

 

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.

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Catalyst 2017 at The Boulder Hub

 

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.

IMG_0843
Some of the beautiful lines put up over the 2 days of setting

 

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?

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Oceana, the competition winner for Open female, eyes off the next hold

 

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.

IMG_0814
Intermediate semi-finals Sunday morning

 

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!

As climbing in our country grows we are seeing more and more facility managers, setters and even everyday woody warriors, looking overseas to find and ship the latest and greatest holds, hang-boards and wood grips from Europe and America.
As a setter and a coach myself, I definitely won’t lie, I get pretty excited when I open up the browser and check out some of the amazing things that are happening around the world, like 360 volumes, HRT dual texture holds and psico bloc deep water solo comps.
But what about what is happening at home?
I’ve said it before, that when a climber heads overseas, to Europe and beyond (Get Strong Mantra) they immerse themselves in a world that is totally void of the distractions that living at home hold. Anyone who has ever been on a work trip will understand, you step out the door and onto the plane and you’re working. Even if you don’t want to be, you can’t help but think about what you need to do when you get there, make notes on presentations and get everything done you need to before you head home. It’s the same when you go on an extended climbing trip, you’re usually sitting on the plane thinking with the guide book in your lap.
james on his training wall
James Kassay, owner and shaper of Infinite Holds, on his training wall, filled with many of his own shapes, at his own gym! 
The focus in much of the climbing world is centred around somewhere outside our boundaries, but it feels like this is beginning to change. Over the past 2 or 3 years, the number of quality hold shapers and pourers have increased. Small, single man manufacturing spots have popped up and begun to deliver quality volumes with durable texture like Victoria’s Infinite climbing (see header). Pourers have shifted to polyurethane to build lighter stronger shapes, like WA’s Galaxy holds. CNC cutting wizards have begun to surface like Concept Climbing, able to produce quality timber training equipment like campus rungs, hangboards and a multitude of other devices designed to get you strong.
Concept climbing crag board
Concept Climbing Crag board
The key component now, if we want to see these and others like them flourish, is to support them. The reasons to support them are varied, but I can’t think of anything more important (or selfish) than because it will begin to provide us, in the great down under, with world class, Euro style holds, at home.
Less shipping, easier shopping. Who doesn’t like the sound of that!?
Again, my bias will show here, but providing this support to the people who support our industry, will in turn help it grow. That growth will then put us in a better position to develop and encourage new climbers, plus support and extend our Aussie team elite. We will be able to offer that which they can really only find overseas at the moment, and then who knows? Maybe an Australian World Cup or two?
If you would like more information on any of the shapers or makers mentioned in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us! 

One of the beautiful things about this life is that nothing is ever perfect. Somehow, all these chaotic elements get thrown together and create beautiful sunsets, amazing rock features and hands capable of squeezing, pulling and crimping their way to the summit. Not wanting to step too far into the realms of spirituality and such, these things amaze me. It is this ‘imperfection’ I think that continually drives us to find more, push harder and better ourselves in the areas of our lives that we are most passionate about. Or at least it should.

Dan Gorden on male problem 2
One of the beautiful moments of setting at night

Part of my role as the head setter for the Australian Nationals this year will be to review and reflect on how the setting team performed and how well the ‘problems’ we set fulfilled their intended purpose. If you managed to read my earlier post, ‘#mysetter’ you would have read how impressed I was with the teams performance, especially with all the pressures and confines of the event. Setting for 16 categories in 2 days and 2 nights, with 10 categories having finals and 2 categories having semi finals. That’s 28 sets of boulders put up and taken down for a 3 day comp…………. 

Still, as I stated in my opening paragraph, nothing is perfect, and one of the things that drives me is the pursuit of constant improvement towards that perfection. So that vein, the junior problems were a little hard, but we did not account for how fatigued the athletes would be after 3 days of competing, plus the junior finals were the first boulders we set AND the 8 boulders set had to suffice for 6 categories, spanning from 14 year old girls to 19 year old men……. excusable.

However, the open female boulders, were too hard, too burly, too…. well, male centric. The qualifications were too hard, the semi’s were too hard and the finals were too hard. I failed to rectify the problem in both the second 2 rounds. Tired minds, tired bodies, either way, it didn’t work.

Female Final 1
The Purple volumes were just too tough for the women

It has been something that I have been reflecting on since the event. Ideally, a prefect comp is where all problems get at least one top and competitors are split based primarily on tops and attempts to tops. The first women’s final had no tops. Not one, and the women were as fresh as they could have been. Talking this over with World Cup climber James Kassay, he was pretty blunt….. “so, I need to teach you how to set for women apparently”. I completely agreed. But as we talked we came to a realisation. Where are all the women setters?

I don’t claim to know everyone, but the only person I can think of that has set at high level events is Carlie LeBreton. Further than that, how many female head route setters are there internationally? When was the last female head route setter at a world cup? Has there ever been one? I am happy to be educated here, so please, feel free to inform me. But there is no denying that there is a huge gap in women setters, at the very least in Australia, if not through the international climbing community. We have seen the rise of female climbing globally, again in the words of James “The women on the world cup circuit are really f*#@ing strong. We were working the same problems together”.  So why no female setters?

Oceana
Ocea, a rising female star in Australian Climbing

Whilst I love self improvement and as I said before, the pursuit of self betterment is one of the things that drives me, pushes me to set in a new way, think in new ways and climb in new ways. But when it comes to setting for women, whilst I would be super excited for James to mentor me…….. I think I want a woman to do it.

Setting for Nationals 2015 was a tall order.

Whilst I had the pleasure of being involved with many facets of the Australian Boulder champs, my official title was that of head route setter, and I can tell you, never have I faced the challenges that I faced this time around!

I feel as though at this point I should precede this post with a few statements. Firstly, I don’t want anyone to think or feel that I am upset or secretly angry about anything that happened. I am merely writing down my experience. I know where climbing is at in Australia and also understand first hand the constraints of climbing events. Also, I am not belittling anyone else’s contribution. There were many, who I felt did much more than me to make this all happen, but I am not them, and so I know not there experience, so all I can express is my own vision.

So.

The marque went up on the Wednesday, the week before the competition, to give us time to build the wall, prep everything and make sure that the walls and all our gear would stay protected from the elements. It was then that I started my tenure there. Sleeping in the marque every night, to ensure everything was protected from curious passers by. I had already been there a week before any setting had begun and had also helped construct a frame and build a wall. I was already tired…….

Team assemble
Josh and Tommy were the first to arrive…. poor guys…

To add to that, I had multiple commitments in Melbourne that I had to juggle, in addition to managing the setting team and making sure that everything was perfect from my end, for the 3 day event. We had 2 days!

The team this year had 2 setters from Tasmania (Josh and Tommy from Rockit), 2 setters from Victoria (Sam from Hardrock and Dick from The Rock in Geelong) and 2 setters from Queensland (Dan and Pat from Urban). I can’t explain how impressed I was with the team. They were never afraid to get involved in the other elements that we had to deal with in preparation, including mat tetris and mounting panels, not to mention all the  amazing setting they did!

Sometimes setting for competitions and even commercial setting can be extraordinarily frustrating. It feels like setters are taken for-granted, thought of as some reluctant necessity.  However, I can’t stress enough that no matter the venue, the holds or the facility, if the setting isn’t on par, you get poor results and a lacklustre event. Over everything, it’s the climbs that we are selling, it’s the climbs that make the event, it’s the climbs that bring people back. This competition was a tall order. Not everything went smoothly, not everything was perfect, but man we got awfully close….

Pretty damn good for a pack of volunteers, with the shortest amount of prep time for a national comp I have ever had, with little to no sleep and almost a full first day with no pads!……….

Josh and Tommy select holds
Josh and Tommy selecting holds

Setters working on the wall
Setters and builders

Pat even did a stint on the camera
Pat even did a stint on the camera

The team managed to prepare qualifications, semis and finals for Open A male and Female, plus finals for Juniors, Youth A and Youth B, Male and Female in just 2 days, in addition to helping finish the wall, bring the pads in and prep the marquee. In amongst that we set problems for the Youth C and D categories, plus the masters and Open B’s! (big props to James Kassay and Al Pryce for coming back after the gala event to help with this!) Never have I seen so much achieved by so few in such short a time! To add to this, there were certain constraints put on us in regards to space we had to set, as well as holds and volumes we had access to. The finals needed to be seen from a single side of both mushrooms, which limited our space to set, plus the timetable was packed full of set, after re-set, so we had little time adjust over the 3 days.

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Late night testing by head-torch as the we lost power some nights!

The setters timetable:

We had a 2 day bump in, set Open Qualifications and Youth C and D climbs. After Youth C and D climbed, the wall got stripped and Open Qualifications re-set. Then Friday night, everything came down and semi-finals were put back up and tweaked. After semi finals (Saturday) we stripped and put Open finals up. Then after that (Saturday night) all Junior, Youth A and B qualifications went up, plus masters and Open B. Followed by Sunday, the whole front side got stripped again and Junior, Youth A and Youth B finals are re-set!………

It was such a pleasure to work with that crew, each one bringing something different to the table and each person putting in an in-human effort to make the event happen! #mysetter

You guys rock! Josh Fawssett, Tommy Krauss, Pat Banda, Sam Junker, Dick Lodge, Dan Gordon. With special mention to Al Pryce and James Kassay.


Driving home from the Australian Boulder Champs (Australian Boulder Climbing Championships to be precise), I was totally spent. I considered pulling over and trying to nap, but was on a tight schedule to make it back to Bayside Rock for coaching, so I cracked open another red bull and pushed on, using the driving to try and make sense of all the tangled memories from the past week and a half.

setting starts
the first day of setting. The plans for the wall build still up!

What a journey this event has been. From conception, to creation, to competition, it sure had its fair share of ups and downs (no pun intended). It feels like years ago already, driving up to Ballarat with the first load of holds and T-nuts, watching the marque being erected. The next 8 days are a crazy blur of sawing, steel, bolts, problem solving, setting and climbing, not to mention the arduous task of mat Tetris at 4am the morning of the competition. Cutting it close doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Setters working on the wall
The setters working hard to finish the panels

I can tell you that there were a number of moments when Naomi, Romain, Aaron, Roisin and Myself stood in piles of sawdust, hard hats on, holding 5m steel pillars, thinking that the monumental task before us was totally insurmountable. Yet still, we pressed on.

The ingenuity, perseverance, determination, focus and drive of these people is something I will never forget. In those dark and early hours, when I thought that I had nothing left to give, I somehow found the will to carry on because of them.

Finished panels
The panels are finished!

I wanted also to mention the countless other volunteers that visited us, and helped us achieve this incredible feat. Ingemar for his incredible designs and use of his shed, Aden for building…. well…. everything. James and Claire for appearing when we needed them most, Naomi’s mum for feeding our army and Stuart for everything else plus the amazing reaction to the climbs we set, awesome.

(I will be talking about the setting, setters and comp in my next post…..)

Sport climbing in Australia is really starting to ramp up and I think that this event has really show cased that. It came at just the right time too, with climbing being short listed for the 2020 Olympics. We are seeing bigger and better competitions, with the level of our athletes ever on the rise too. The gauntlet was really thrown down by Queensland earlier this year and I would like to think that Victoria took the challenge and stepped up to the plate!

That being said, with Rob and Carlie deciding to retire from their long serving board positions on the SCA, the quote from Sir Isaac Newton comes to mind:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours and their input and constant drive I am sure will be missed in the regular board meetings.

Even though this project is far from over, with the moving of the wall and the clean up and assembly still to take place, the Championships are over, but for some reason, I also feel like it has all just begun……….. What will tomorrow bring?

Who will be next?