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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Vail World Cup 2012

This past world cup in Vail was one of the most successful competitions of the year. Having come off my podium finish in Innsbruck, I was feeling strong and felt even stronger here. As always, I’ll tell my first person perspective of the adventure. I’ll also try to keep it short and to the point, skipping over most of qualifiers and semi-finals. As it was a few days ago, I’ve had a good amount of time to reflect on how it was and how much fun it really was. [singlepic id=381 w=480 h=320 float=center]   I flew into Colorado a few days before the event to get used to the time change. Last time I was in the US was for ABS Nationals, and the jet lag absolutely killed me. I felt like throwing up every other minute and luckily still climbed pretty well. This time, I got in a few days early, trained at The Spot on Wednesday, and just relaxed on the other days. At Thursday mid-day, I met up with Daniel Woods and we set off for Vail. It was a cool feeling driving up to Vail with Daniel. He was the US champion, and I was Canadian champion for 2012. It almost seemed like we were on a mission, and embarking on it together. Anyways, I thought it was cool and a few hours later we were in Vail. The parade was cool, lots of people cheering and I got settled into my hotel with Luigi Montilla. That night, while relaxing, I heard a knock at my door and to my surprise my parents were standing there. They decided to come down and surprise me! After seeing me on the podium in Innsbruck, they were feeling lucky and wanted to watch me compete. They found some good flights, a hotel and made the trip down. They brought my favourite cookies and some extra support! [singlepic id=380 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Qualifiers were Friday morning with Women starting in the morning and Men in the afternoon. I can safely say that I absolutely crushed the qualifiers. I was the third person out just after Kilian Fischhuber and Guillaume Glairon-Mondet. They’d come back in a minute or two, so I knew all the boulders were possible. [singlepic id=375 w=320 h=480 float=left] The hardest one for me was the first one, the slab. I almost started on the zone hold at first glance, and then noticed the start holds a few meters to the left. It was an awkward slab for me, but I got it done. The next 4 in qualifiers were pretty standard. I thought they were really cool as well, second was powerful with a knee bar, third was a reachy compression boulder with a dyno finish (pictured below). The fourth one was compression with an initial jump with the final one having a hard smear foot sequence. I calmly went through every boulder, looking it over for a good 30 seconds before trying it. One by one, I kept flashing them and when I flashed the final boulder, I was 5 for 5, a perfect round. [singlepic id=377 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Semi-finals were Saturday morning; to my amazement they went very similar to the qualification with one variation, the first move of the first boulder. I came out for the semi-final round, and was presented with a weird boulder. It took me 4 tries to stick the first move (ended up jumping) and then flashed the rest of the problem. The rest of the semi-final round went like the qualification. [singlepic id=376 w=320 h=480 float=right] Second boulder was 12 moves long with a 360 in the middle, third was a mini compression on a 15 degree overhanging wall, and the final was somewhat of a slab. I managed to flash the rest of these boulder and secure my place in finals with 4 tops in 7 tries. Although I had quite a good semi-finals, I was in a mere 5th place heading into finals. Jakob Schubert had gone 4 for 4 with Jan Hojer and Rei Sugimoto 4 for 5. In 4th spot was Guillaume with 4 in 6. Filling out our finals was none other than veteran Kilian Fischhuber struggling a bit, but managing to get 4 in 10. After forcing myself to eat some food, I went back to my hotel room for only an hour before heading back to isolation. [singlepic id=378 w=320 h=400 float=left] We were supposed to be heading back to the wall at 16:45, but due to a very bad hail storm, finals were pushed back an hour. It managed to clear up and while we were driving to the venue, the sun was just starting to break through the clouds. Because everything was pretty wet around the competition wall, they couldn’t put the competitors behind the wall. There was a big tent, so just in front of the boulders were dry. They set up 6 chairs on either side, and had us sit in front of the crowd for finals. I have mixed emotions for this. I know that they didn’t have much of a choice concerning this, but I would rather be behind the wall. It’s sometimes very hard for competitors to sit in front of the public, especially if they’re having a hard finals. At least behind the wall, we have some time to ourselves to relax, remotivate and get in our zone. Regardless of where we were, we were all getting ready and it’s the same for everyone. The game had start and our boulders looked amazing! [singlepic id=364 w=320 h=400 float=right] To start off the final round, we were placed on the slab… oh no. Kilian did it in a few tries, and I was up second. There were no handholds after starting the boulder, and you had to move right to left and fall into the corner. It took me 3 tries to get into the corner, and I topped the problem from there. I had done the slab in a mere 3 tries, and I was excited. Even after watching some of the other competitors flash the slab, I knew I had at least done it, and would have to make up for it some other time in finals. After the first boulder, all 6 men had their top in a varying amount of tries. The second boulder was way out left and looked hard. Again, Kilian went out first and after what I guessed was 2 or 3 tries, sent the problem. I went out and was excited. [singlepic id=365 w=320 h=400 float=left] I hopped on, and almost fell on the first move; it was way further than I had anticipated. I re matched the start hold, and went a bit more dynamic. I did another move with a high right heel and worked myself up underneath a bit feature. From here, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted my thumb or my palm on the little foot hold and while I was swapping between the two, my muscles were weakening. When I finally tried the move, I was too tired, and fell. My second try was exactly the same as my first (spending 10 seconds between thumb and palm), I fell again. I tried to relax and told myself that on my 3rd try I wouldn’t hesitate (going thumb!). I did the first two moves quickly and got up onto the hold. Without thinking, I kept my thumb on, matched feet and moved up. It was crazy how much easier the move felt when you didn’t screw around at the bottom. I finished the last two moves and although they were hard, I did not fall. It took me 3 tries in total, but at least I had the top. 3 for 6 with two boulders left. To my surprise, 3 of the next 4 competitors couldn’t complete the boulder. For various reasons, only Jan was able to do it. He also did it with style and flashed it easily! After the second boulder, I knew I was in third place but because of my high attempts number, I knew if I couldn’t do one of the last boulders, then it gave the chance for another competitor to pass me. [singlepic id=369 w=320 h=480 float=right] The third boulder started with a triple jump. You would run at the wall, jump, and then grab 3 holds consecutively until you were on the starting holds. It was an amazing start, but very scary. It turned out that the initial jump wasn’t too too hard, just very scary. Whenever you’re in finals, you always want to do well, so you imagine that the moves will all be hard. There’s pressure from yourself, there’s the crowd, and all the other competitors as well. Sometimes I can’t do the most simple of moves if I think that it should be done another way. For this boulder, Kilian again did it in 2 tries. From how quickly he had done the problem, I knew he had fallen once on the dyno, then done it relatively easy second go. I turned around to face the boulder and start prepping my steps. I was going to take 1.5 steps into the jump. This was to say, I’d lead with left with a half step, then full step right, then onto the foothold and jump! My first try was pretty hilarious. I missed the second hold almost completely because I hadn’t jumped hard enough. As soon as I had left the starting foothold, I knew my chances were grim. I fell. I added another 2 steps for the jump, and sent the problem second go. [singlepic id=370 w=240 h=350 float=left][singlepic id=371 w=240 h=350 float=right] With one boulder to go, I was 3 for 8, and I knew Kilian was around 3 for 6. After Guillaume went and sent the boulder in a few tries, the turn came to Jan Hojer who had flashed the first two. Without hesitation, he dominated the third boulder. He did the jump effortlessly and just manhandled the holds to the top. As he matched the finishing hold, I could only smile and look over at Kilian. “He’s going to win” is what I said, and Kilian just smiled and nodded. After 3 boulders, Jan was 3 for 3. It didn’t even look like the boulders were hard for him. On top of that, it was his first time in finals… [singlepic id=374 w=320 h=400 float=left] Onto the last boulder, which was a strange one. It started by doing a step up and then there were 4 identical holds plastered across the roof. My first instinct was handjam, after seeing a handjam at the spot and another in isolation. After we looked at it for a while, the holds looked too far, so we thought just a jump to the black ones, and squeeze! We noticed the foothold out left for a toe hook, and the top looked easy. Again, Kilian went out, and after spending a good minute on the problem, he flashed it. At that point, I knew I couldn’t win the competition… I knew that if I topped it, I’d be on the podium 100%. I went out and got ready. I took a bit of extra time to relax my breathing before starting. I did the first couple moves and saw the little black foothold. I could barely reach the black hold with my feet low, and I guessed that it was a handjam. I tried thumb up but I wasn’t tall enough, so I went thumb down, and it felt like a jug! I brought my right hand up and put thumb up into the other handjam. With both of them in, it felt so good, I couldn’t believe it. I was a bit worried about my writ while cutting my feet, but it rotated naturally, and I swung my foot out left to the toe hook. [singlepic id=372 w=480 h=320 float=center]   From there, I brought my hands up and grabbed the crimp. When I hit the crimp, I was pretty sure I was going to top. I climbed the last 4-5 moves very slowly to make sure I didn’t slip. As I was reaching towards the last hold, I could feel the emotion rising. I grabbed the final jug with one hand and immediately clenched a fist with my left. I started yelling and swung around to look at the crowd. I matched, screamed some more and jumped down. I knew I was on the podium, which meant I’d repeat what I did in Innsbruck. [singlepic id=373 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Even though Kilian and I were both on the podium, there were still 4 more climbers to go. Guillaume was next, and after misfiring the second to last move, he sent it second go and secured 4th place. Jan was next and I was eager to watch him crush the boulder. He started normally, and reached up into the handjams. What looked awkward was the fact that I think his hands were too big to fit into the handjams, or he just wasn’t thinking about it. He fell once, and everyone was astounded, myself included. After a couple more tries, I was starting to get worried. To watch someone absolutely crush the first 3 boulders and to get shut down by what boulderers would call a “party trick” is hard to watch. After 3-4 tries, I realized he was probably not going to do the problem. Kilian who was beside me felt the same. He said to me “I don’t want to win like this”… and it’s true. Even though I knew I’d come second instead of third, it wasn’t in the way I wanted. Jan was stronger than both of us in finals. As the clock was in its final seconds, Jan did his final try but was unable to complete the problem. I could feel the frustration for him, but he was all smiles. He turned around, waved and walked back towards our athlete’s bench. Kilian gave him a handshake followed by myself. I felt no difference knowing I had come 2nd over 3rd. I knew that after the finals it would change, but all I could think about was Jan. After having a bit of time to reflect, I know Jan will be happy with a podium finish in his first world cup finals. After the rest of the climbers finished the last problem, final results for the men were Kilian, me, Jan, Guillaume, Jakob and Rei. On the women’s side, the battle was very close, coming down to the final women of the final boulder. Similar to the men, Julia Wurm was in the lead until the last boulder, but was unable to complete it settling into third. Anna Stöhr came away with another victory being the only women to complete all 4 boulders. Shauna Coxsey, the UK wonderwomen came 2nd for the third time this season! Full results for the men can be found HERE. Full results for the women can be found HERE.

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Comments (14)

  • Vail World Cup 2012 « The Spot Route Setting Blog

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    […] Finally have some Internet so I’ll update today and tomorrow with World Cup info and photos. First, here’s an excellent post from Canadian Champion Sean McColl – Vail World Cup 2012 | Sean McColl […]

    Reply

  • Avatar

    grubber

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    thanks again for another great write-up!
    really enjoy the inside insight 🙂
    the way you appraoach climbing is very motivating for me, and as a setter I also appreciate your analysis of the problems.

    keep it up, and good luck if you’re competing in the last round as well!

    Reply

  • 2012 Teva Mountain Games: Vail Bouldering World Cup Final Results | Climbing Narcissist

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    […] Sean McColl To watch someone absolutely crush the first 3 boulders and to get shut down by what boulderers would call a “party trick” is hard to watch. After 3-4 tries, I realized he was probably not going to do the problem. Kilian who was beside me felt the same. He said to me “I don’t want to win like this”… and it’s true. Even though I knew I’d come second instead of third, it wasn’t in the way I wanted. Jan was stronger than both of us in finals. […]

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Matt

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    Hey thanks for the write up! I was wondering if you could enlighten us to the fact that the announcers said that Jan had been practicing hand jams the day before. Is there any chance he was tipped off to the final problem or perhaps all the problems… Is there any cheating in the competition world?

    Cheers
    Matt

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I’m not sure if he was directly tipped off or anything like that. I would assume that as their coach knows the head route setters style, maybe he mentioned that he was thinking about a handjam. As you could see on finals day though, Jan couldn’t do the handjam, so it might have even stressed him out? Who knows… There’s not “a lot” of cheating, at least that I know of. I can only hope that climbing will remain as a sport where people don’t go out of their way to cheat!

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Punter

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        I have great respect for you as a climber Sean, but you come across as a complete wanker dismissing handjams as a “party trick”. They are a vital climbing technique and part of climbing history. I can think of numerous classic boulder problems they can be found on let alone routes.

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          Heh. Yeah I can see that, thanks for keeping my head on straight. I just feel that in boulder world cups, a hand jam is considered non standard. I’m not at all saying that it’s not a huge part of climbing history. Handjams are classic, and hard! I have so much respect for climbers that excel in this, and I know I’m very bad compared to standard trad climbers as far as handjamming goes 🙂

          Reply

          • Avatar

            Punter

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            Good to hear Sean, I worded that more harshly than I intended. Anyway congratulations on a great result at Vail, look forward to seeing a victory from you in Munich!!

  • Avatar

    Punter #2

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    about “party tricks” in general…

    As an avid climber and boulder wc spectator (in the form of youtube highlights and live streams) i find that each comp has at least a bizarre move or problem that could be labelled that way…
    Honestly, isn’t everything that doesn’t match commercial routesetting or standard outdoor boudering a bit of a party trick?

    Yet, ain’t these “party tricks” a big part of what makes bouldering comps visually entertaining, at least in comparison with lead?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Overall, yes yes and yes. Party tricks are a small part of competition climbing hence all the dynos, weird methods and rose moves. What I just thought was sad was physically watching someone flash the first 3 and not be able to the party trick. Usually the “party trick” isn’t supposed to be the hardest thing in the comp, merely one of the more fun things to watch. It happens though… oh well.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    James

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    Thanks very much for the writeup – it was great to read a climber’s perspective on the routes, especially the finals ‘party trick’.

    As someone who enjoys route setting (at a much, much, MUCH lower level than events like this), I love seeing the different ways setters can get creative on problems like this. I took a setting clinic with Chris Danielson a few years ago, and you could see the gears turning in his head when he was looking at a blank piece of wall, trying to figure out how to force some really crazy moves.

    That was the thought going through my head the second I Saw those four half-moon holds. I looked over at my wife and said “I bet they are trying to force hand jams”. And then, as you guys climbed the problem, after every attempt or send, I would look over at her and say “man, I really think they actually forced the jam. I don’t think anyone can do it without jamming.” Of course, when the comp got near the end, some of the climbers pulled off some crazy beta and it looked, from our angle, like they managed the moves without jamming. Rei especially I think pulled off some crazy arete beta to work around it.

    All around it was an incredibly entertaining show, and while it saddened me to see Jan crush everything else and get shut down by that problem, watching the different approaches the pros took on that move was the highlight of the night for me.

    Now here’s hoping it’s in a better venue next year! The asphalt parking lot kinda sucked.

    Reply

  • Chamonix Lead World Cup | Sean McColl

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    […] past month and a bit, I’ve been pretty focused on training. I got back from the bouldering World Cup in Vail on June 7th and since then have been trying to re build my resistance and endurance. I also went on […]

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