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.

Nathaniel Coleman is silver medalist in Toronto

We saw Nathaniel climbing super strong this season in both ABS Youth and Open. And now he got silver in Toronto at the IFSC World Cup. Congratulations!

Finals. Most climbers did 1st problem including Nathaniel. 2nd problem had a move to big undercling hold where taller climbers had slight advantage, Nathaniel did well and finished it. 3rd problem was about balancing moves on slabs made of big pyramid volumes, this problem saw only 2 tops including Nathaniel; he showed the character and fought to the end until topping the problem in last 30 seconds. He performed very well on last 4th problem showing intricate heels and toes from upside-down positions, fell on last move.

Will we see more of him or was it one time luck? Check the video link below where he is still a kid saying “I definitely want to do it for the rest of my life … remain fierce competitor”. He said it 4 years ago and kept his word, so we will see him. The next bouldering World Cup in Vail is just 1 week away, hopefully we see Nathaniel going strong there too.

Origins of Climbing Competitions

In which country do you think first climbing competition took place? Russia (USSR then). Can you guess a year? 1947.

IFSC – International Federation of Sport Climbing recognizes it on the IFSC History page:

The first climbing competitions were organized in the former USSR in the late 1940s. These events were focused on Speed Climbing, and were mostly dedicated to Soviet climbers until the 1980s.

So, yeap, sport climbing was born in Russia.

First international climbing competition happened in 1976 in Russian city Gagra. Rough translation of some details of that event from the page of Russian Federation of Climbing

In 1976 (October), the first international climbing competition, conducted by the rules of the State Sports Committee of the USSR in Gagra in the gorge Yupshara. In addition to the Soviet climbers, climbers from Austria, East Germany, Poland, Romania, France, Germany and Japan participated in the competition. Individual climbing won A.Demin, all-around – V.Markelov. Besides the Russian athletes, climbers from Poland and Germany did pretty well.

As an observer at competitions attended Robert Parago – the current president of Mountaineering and Climbing Federation of France, who said at the end of the competition, that “the Soviet climbers have a fantastic virtuosity, their level of climbing the steep and overhanging cliffs impresses.”

Famous German mountaineer Otto Wiedemann in an interview with the Bulgarian newspaper “Echo” said about the competitions: “I climbed almost all the big walls of the Swiss and French Alps, in Alaska went to McKinley, together with Reinhold Messner climbed in the Himalayas, I was in the Pamirs and the Caucasus, but the biggest impression of my life was made by the climbing competition, where I finished in sixth place, behind only Russian climbers. I would describe this sport as something fabulous, requiring extremely high level of training.”

Some interesting facts could be found at, but (in case you do not read Russian) you would have to run Russian text through some translator (google translation does reasonable job).

In 70s and 80s Russian climbers gave good competition to the best of European climbers. In 1984 at the comp in Crimean city Simeiz, legendary climber Wolfgang Güllich was 4-th, in first place Russian climber Alexey Chertov.