Too many climbers in USA Bouldering Open?

by Igor

I was watching qualification round of USA Bouldering Open Championship today from 9am to 6pm+. It is long time to watch. Some climbers spent 8-9 hours locked in ISO and it was hard to climb well after that long time in ISO. I can also imagine some holds feel much worse after 100+ climbers work on them before you.

Here is follow up Instagram post by Sean McColl where people discuss this problem in comments.

Does USA Climbing organization wants it or not but they have to change something soon because the way it worked before is not going to work any more. The trend is obvious: more and more people are going to register for Open. This year we had 120+ men in qualification round, what if next year 140-60 men register? 12 hours in ISO?

5 boys from my local gym competed today, plus I saw another 5-10 climbers that climbing level is known to me; I know how they climb compare to each other and I saw that waiting long hours in ISO affected how they performed relative to each other depending on the time they climbed. Not fair. 3-4 hours is about max time a person can spent in ISO without being seriously affected.

Splitting climbers in groups is most probably not going to help much (not too mention how hard it is going to be to organize) and it does not scale, 2 groups then 3 groups… The only solution is to have some sort of pre-qualification round without ISO and without video stream. Like USA Climbing does for Youth Sport qualifiers, come at certain time and climb. Seeing others climbing might give you some advantage but based on the experience it does not change final results much, strong climbers pass and weak climbers can’t repeat after strong ones anyway. About 60 should advance from pre-qualifiers to qualifiers; seeing today results 60 seems fair number,  some climbers between 50-60 did not have a single top.

Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Voytek Kurtyka

According to Alpinist Magazine:

The Piolets D’Or committee has announced that this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Polish alpinist Voytek Kurtyka.

Few links about this interesting person:

The last link has Voytek’s quotes from books, articles and interviews. Voytek seems to  be one of those rare climbing individuals who is able to articulate his thoughts and reflections on climbing very well.


2016 US Bouldering National Championships Results

Men’s Final Round

Rank Climber Tops Points 1 2 3 4
1 Nathaniel Coleman 3 2.33 1 3 6.5 1.5
2 Jimmy Webb 3 2.77 6.5 3 2 1.5
3 Carlo Traversi 3 3.31 2 3 4 5
4 Daniel Woods 3 3.6 4 6 2 3.5
5 Tyler Landman 3 3.96 5 7 2 3.5
6 Kai Lightner 2 4.33 3 3 6.5 6
7 Mohammad Jafari Mahmodabadi 1 5.11 6.5 3 5 7


Women’s Final Round

Rank Climber Tops Points 1 2 3 4
1 Megan Mascarenas 3 2.21 2 2 1.5 4
2 Alex Puccio 2 1.65 1 5 1.5 1
3 Claire Buhrfeind 2 3.08 3 2 3 5
4 Micheala Kiersch 1 3.5 5 2 6 2.5
5 Meagan Martin 1 3.56 4 4 4 2.5
6 Sierra Blair-Coyle 0 5.73 6 6 5 6


Let us share our personal reflections on the comp.


Men’s final round this year was very intense. All the way to the very end it was hard to predict the outcome because several competitors were crushing with almost equal power. It will perhaps be safe to suggest that problems 1 and 3 were most interesting to watch as they were progressively introducing an interesting separation in the scores.

Problem 1.

Daniel fell matching on the finish hold and did not get the top that could bring him victory this year with the only one with 4 tops.

Daniel Woods on Problem 1

Jimmy could not pass the first crux at the very beginning. If he passed that crux he would finish problem #1 for sure, and get 4 tops and win the comp. We dare to say it is not the first time Jimmy has this problem with funky-gymnastic-indoor-plastic moves. In an attempt to generalize our observations: the strongest outdoor crushers sometimes struggle on “artificial indoor-only” moves more than objectively weaker climbers who spend most of their time climbing indoor. You would think that climbers like Jimmy Webb or Adam Ondra can always win a comp, but it is not really the case; climbing outside and indoor have their differences.

Problem 3.

Nathaniel won the comp. But he could not pass those powerful pinches at the beginning of Problem #3, he admitted this problem in the post-comp interview with the commentators. Kai could not conquer those pinches either. Jimmy and Daniel on other side casually walk through that place.

Nathaniel on Problem 3

Jimmy on Problem 3

So we see two things:

  • Guys (usually pros) who seriously crush outside usually dominate on the routes that require raw finger strength.
  • Indoor junkies, usually young athletes, might not have power of V15 pro crushers on crimps and pinches but sometimes have an advantage on tricky/funky gymnastic moves due to a) younger age and therefore more agile body, b) more time spent on plastic and c) training and physical conditioning provided by coaches.


Mohammad got into finals and somewhat proved that last year was not a fluke. He could not do the beginning of Problem 1 and beginning of Problem 3, could not finish Problem 4 and ended up with just one top of Problem 2.

Getting into finals for Kai is probably a great achievement, he is definitely getting better and better in bouldering. He is very young, we will see if his power will eventually match his endurance and he starts crushing in bouldering.


Daniel was one move away from having 4 tops. Nathaniel could not start #3. Both have 3 tops. Nathaniel 1st place and Daniel 4th. Isn’t it … wrong? Attending a lot of Youth comps we can say that the new scoring system “selects” climbers that make less mistakes but not necessary the strongest climbers. We have a situation when pretty much all climbing community does not like this new scoring system but we still have it.



Megan climbed very well and deserved the victory.

Alex has shown that she is a true warrior. It seemed that it was not easy comp for her for many reasons including recent knee injury. Respect.

Another young climber, Claire Buhrfeind 3rd place, really good performance.

First V10 for kids

It is nice to know that you are actually able to boulder double digits, it increases your self confidence, especially if you are a kid. Therefore projecting V10+ is a good idea if kid is at the V8/9 level.

For kids it makes sense to find out what other strong kids climbed as their first V10+ and first try those problems. Truth is, every strong kid we know climbed his/her first V10 that perfectly suits him/her.

There are so much info on Internet that it is usually not a problem to find what you want, but in case your bouldering destination is one where kids do not climb that often and no relevant info is available, then, as a rule of thumb, look for overhang wall with small holds without big moves 🙂 .

Anthony’s first V10 happened to be Scare Tactics in Red Rocks this year (2015). By now days standards V10 at 12 years old is nothing extraordinary, but hopefully it is just a beginning…

New Regulations for Gold Wall in Sonora, California

Past weekend a sign with rules for visiting climbers was installed at the trail-head to Gold Wall (it surprised us a great deal on Sunday morning). Access Fond published info on the website regarding the sign and the situation with climbing Gold Wall:

Most probably this event implies that Access Fond and the land owner stroke a deal and climbing Gold Wall does not violate any laws as long as climbers follow the rules. Hopefully we will see the topo soon.