2012 World Championships (day 5)

Day 5 (September 16th)

Lead Finals

This day was very straight forward for me, warm-up and climb 1 route… I only needed to climb one route, and then it was over, completely over.

I woke up in the morning, feeling a bit tired. I figured almost every morning was similar to this so I didn’t think much of it. It was also a lot later than every other day which was nice. For the first 4 days, I had been waking up at 7am, and the first day 6am. Today, after waking up at 8:30am, I felt a bit more recovered. As isolation didn’t even open until 13:30 in the afternoon, Mathilde took this chance to go climbing. We drove to a local gym and I belayed her a few times. It’s nice to be close to climbing, but not thinking about the actual competition. After Mathilde was done, I headed to the competition to watch the girl’s finals and eventually go into isolation. As the isolation opened only 30 minutes after the women’s finals started, I only got a chance to watch 3/4 of the women’s bouldering final. As I headed to isolation just before it closed, Melanie Sandoz was in the lead, with the title still up for grabs between Olga Iakovleva and Anna Stöhr. We found out half an hour later that the results didn’t change, and Melanie was the new world champion! Isolation closed at 14:30 with preview 55 minutes later. The first person was supposed to climb at 15:45.

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I didn’t start warming up until 15:00… Yes, 25 minutes to warm up, I was tired. As I started warming up, all I could think about was how tired my muscles were. My fatigue was really starting to catch up with me, and I knew I only needed to climb 50 moves max. It took me 15 minutes before I started to feel even remotely good, and most of my warm-up consisted of just hanging on my arms in the scaffolding and stretching out my arms. Just before we left for preview, I went back on the wall and felt MUCH better than I had 20 minutes ago. I made one final problem for Jorg Verhoven who flashed it easy. I did the problem, and felt perfect. Due to that fact, I stopped my warm-up and knew I was ready.

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We went out to preview the route already knowing the rough line it was going to take. We knew it would take the same line as the women’s final, but didn’t know if it would wander a bit less, the same, or a bit more. After the presentation of the finalists to a crowd of over 10,000 people, we turned around and started previewing. As I turned around and looked at the route, besides having a bit of wandering at the beginning, the route went pretty straight up the wall. It went a bit to the left, then a big move into the roof, then a small down climbing section but overall it looked quite powerful. All the holds were blue and most looked like slopers. There were also a lot of features spread out through the route. For me, this meant one thing, compression. I feel the best while in compression moves as I can use my legs and heel hooks to my advantage.

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I’d say I feel the worst on a completely blank wall just gently overhanging… To top things off, the sequence was pretty basic. The start looked pretty easy, with a couple hard moves moving from right to left. Then we knew the compression section in the middle would be harder moves, but I really wasn’t worried. For me, the most worrisome part was the down climb. I needed to get to the jug before the down climb and fell no pump to be confident in getting to the last section of the route. After the roof section, a basic sequence that continued to wander a bit as well.

After the preview was over, I was quite excited. I went back to iso and just grabbed some holds to keep the blood flowing through my arms. I also put on my headphones and cranked the music. One thing I like doing is going deep into my own head. I think about myself, how I’m going to climb the route, and I don’t worry about anyone else in finals. I can only control how I climb, and if I climb well then I have to be happy. I strive to climb well, efficient, precise and fluid every time I’m on the wall. I’m a big fan of conservation of energy while climbing, and I try to limit the number of mistakes I make. Undoubtedly, we might make mistakes while climbing, but if I can minimize the mistakes I make, then I’ll have a higher chance to succeed. I think it’s like this with almost all sports.

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Slowly but surely people climbed the route and soon I was sitting on the on-deck chair. I like to have my music loud enough that I can’t hear anything that the announcer or crowd has to say. It also helps that it has noise cancelling, so I hear only music. I find it’s nice to do this, so when I go out, I don’t care if anyone has topped the route, or if high point is only half way. My goal is to top, and if it’s impossible for me, then to climb to the best of my ability.

As they announced my name, I came walking out, with the liquid chalk drying on my hands. I didn’t even look at the route right away; I looked at the huge crowd and just smiled. Even to be at this point in the competition was quite something for me. 5th day on, 7th round, and here I was competing in the lead finals… I took some deep breaths while looking at the route and waved my arms around. It’s a good way to let a bit of stress out and feel your muscles working. Once I started to climb the route, everything else faded away, and it was just me.

As always, I climbed the beginning very fast. Two moves in, I double clipped and kept going. Climbing, clipping and moving the feet, that’s all that I had to do. I didn’t care how hard the moves are at the bottom of the route, I only know I have to do them quickly. If it’s a hard move, I squeeze the holds harder with my hands. When the moves are easy, then I smile inside my head and do them that much easier. I was up near the 5th draw before a somewhat hard move came. It was just before the first big volume hold, when I did a small cross over. I knew my feet were low and they were going to cut. As they cut, I made an instinctual decision to campus. My feet swung inwards, but instead of putting them on the wall, I used the momentum to campus up and left to the sloper.

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As soon as I had the sloper, I knew my feet were going towards the left. I matched, clipped, and kept going.

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After the clip, the match and the small downclimb were actually hard moves. The foot wasn’t especially good, and the moves were far. I kept climbing and I felt as if this was the only point that I slowed down. The next few holds were bad and big pinches. If you didn’t have them right, they could feel bad. I re adjusted a few times, while still trying to climb quickly and efficiently. As I reached around the corner, the big sloper was also quite bad. I moved my foot up near my hand and I could physically hear the crowd start to cheer. The next move was hard, but I tensed up extra hard because of the crowd. As the crowd roared as I did the move, I imagine that someone had inevitably fallen there. I kept climbing fast as I was within my element, compression on volumes. The next few moves were quite easy as it was just back and forth along my arms with good heel hooks.

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Then came the big move into the roof. With my right foot on the highest foothold out right, I put my heel high and to the left. I locked off as best I could, hoping to be able to reach the hold. I was just tall enough to do the move without having to jump at all.

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As soon as I had all 4 fingers inside the pocket, I let both feet swing up as I brought my feet up, let go with the right hand and clipped. I chalked up and looked at the moves to come, the downclimb section. I felt great on the route, and wasn’t pumped yet, perfect. I grabbed the right undercling which was much smaller than I had anticipated. I knew there was only one way to do the next few moves so I committed. I swung my feet to the right; hand foot matched the undercling and put my left foot on the only foothold in the roof. With a bit of momentum, I latched onto the volume, and again to the far right hold. I matched my feet across to the right and put my foot way out right. My arms were too far apart, and I didn’t know what to do…

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I put my left heel on the miniscule foothold but was afraid it would slip. I knew I had to make a decision as I was not in a good position to just chill. I tensed up as hard as I could and let go with the left hand. My body only swung a tiny bit before stopping and I quickly matched the hold. I could hear the crowd a bit nervous behind me while letting go, but start to cheer as I matched. Here is where I took another big decision. The hold I was on was pretty good, good enough to rest on. I always worry that if I start resting, I might get lower than I would get by just sprinting. I choose the latter and kept going. As I reached around the lip and onto the next volume, a massive cheer from the crowd ensued. I didn’t find the move extra ordinary hard, but I figured I was one of the highest by now. As I reached up and left to the crimp, things got quite hard.

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From the left hand crimp, I knew there was a high left foot hold that I would 100% have to step my foot to AFTER getting the next hold. I pre-swung my foot there, knowing that the move I was on was going to be a bit harder. It paid off and I did the hard move to the right shoulder and immediately started to engage for the next move. I was getting really pumped by now, and barely hit the next pinch. The clip was right there staring at me, and I made another important decision to clip. I matched feet, clipped and chalked as quickly as I could. I grabbed the next undercling which was the worse hold so far on the route. As I brought my feet up and to the right, I eventually had my left foot on the foot hold and my right foot flagged. I looked up, and the next hold looked like a mini jug. I stabbed at it, and my whole body sagged a bit. I tensed up and stuck the hold, but I was so pumped, I couldn’t stop. If I was fresh, I could’ve rested here, but I was at my max so I had to keep going. As I looked up, the next hold seemed so far away. I brought my right foot up, but by then, my left arm couldn’t contract anymore.

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I saw the left foothold and put my left foot on it; it didn’t change anything, I was going to fall. As soon as you know 100% you’re going to fall, there’s only one more situation to try and finish, tag the next hold and secure the + on the one you’re holding. My left arm was dead, so I decided to tag the hold with that arm. I knew it was out of sequence, but all I wanted was the +. I shot out my hand, and didn’t even come remotely close to sticking the hold, but got my plus.

Again, just like every time I’ve fallen in lead this year, I was already smiling coming off the wall. I was maxed, and I felt like I had climbed perfectly. I sailed down to the ground to a roaring crowd. I waved, jumped, clapped and finally bowed to the awesomeness of the crowd here in Paris. I found out shortly after that I was in the lead, which meant I was guaranteed a medal… Perfect end to a long competition. I could hardly believe that I was going to get a medal, even though I knew I had climbed so well. I was so happy that it was over, and even happier that I was going to get a medal in lead. I walked across the stage and met the others finalists that had already climbed. I found out that Adam was in second for the moment with Jorg in third. Sachi had fallen on the first compression move, by having his foot too low and missing the hold. Romain from France had climbed up to the roof, but unfortunately missed the key pocket and fallen there.

Jakob was after me, and I was smiling the whole time I was watching him. I was pretty sure he would climb higher as the route was bouldery and I know he’s good at that style as well. I also knew there was a chance he slips, or makes a big enough error that causes him to fall. He climbed perfectly as well, and was shortly pulling the lip onto the final stretch of the wall. There were a few moves that looked hard for him, but overall it looked easy. Where I had started to get crazy pumped, he rested, in preparation for the final headwall. With the cheering of the crowd after I had fallen, followed by the cheers while I was on the ground, Jakob thought I might’ve topped the route. After he rested, he climbed effortlessly through the section where I had fallen and another 5 moves as well before fallen on the 3rd to last move. He was the new leader and rightly so; he had climbed so well on this finals route, it was special.

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The last climber Ramonet didn’t have such a good route and got bogged down in the roof. He climbed very well to there, but got stuck in the hard down climb section. I’m not sure if he felt the foothold was too far, but he couldn’t figure out the sequence. For 2-3 minutes, he went back and forth between the good pocket in the roof and two moves further. He finally got too pumped, tried to turn around in the roof and fell.

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This meant that Jakob had won his first World Championships and I was going to get the silver medal.

There has been a lot of questions about my style of climbing and why I choose to climb so fast. I’ll try to explain it a bit more, if you still don’t understand why I climb so fast from this post. Overall, I can climb 30 moves without really getting pumped, or let’s say 2 minutes. The difficulty of those moves don’t really change how pumped I get. I can climb 7c or 8b for about 2 minutes and still be the same pumped. This is why I climb so fast. If I can get 3/4 the ways up a route in only 2 minutes, then I can battle it out on the really hard moves while being less pumped then if I have to spent 4 minutes at the bottom figuring out a sequence. Some say I can’t rest, but it’s not that, I just CHOOSE not to rest as I find I get more tired resting than just climbing the whole time. This changes if I’m even given “A JUG” to rest on. Of course I’ll stop, because there’s a difference between a jug and a small finger crimp or something. On small holds (like most on the final), the difference between me just climbing the whole time, or stopping on specific holds to rest is almost none. I choose to climb that fast so I can get to the really hard parts faster and hopefully a lot less pumped. I pretty much get MORE pumped going back on forth on little holds than to just keep climbing.

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My climbing style is also a bit different because I’m a boulderer as well. Take bouldering for example, where the moves are quite a lot harder, and sometimes lower percentage. Because I’m bouldering for half of the year, it’s rare that I ever get to a move on a route that I’ve never done before in bouldering… and that makes sense. It also means that EVERY move on a lead route will be easier than in the bouldering competitions. If you take this idea one step further, because every move is easier than bouldering, it means that I’m going to fall because I’m too pumped and I can’t hang on anymore… So when I think about that fact, I say “then I’ll climb faster, because that’s how I stayed not pumped”.

I hope it makes sense, and ask more questions so I can clarify even further. Overall, lead has easier moves but there’s many more so we’re pumped. If I can sprint through the starting moves and get to the top and just treat it as a long boulder, then I normally get higher. I’ve also “tried” to climb like Sachi, Ramonet and Patxi and it just DOES NOT work (for me). I get half way up the wall which takes 4 minutes and I’m just too pumped to keep going. Of course, I can just keep resting until I fall, but it lacks the explosive style that I normally do. When you just look at the body style between me and Sachi, it’s normal that we’d climb a bit differently I find… Everyone has to find their own climbing style for competitions and mine happens to be slightly different than “the norm”. I find that Jorg, and even Jakob climb similar to how I climb, maybe just a bit slower. On top of that, Jakob has the ability to rest better and probably more efficiently than me.

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All that being said, that’s how I climb. While in training, I try different methods to make sure I’m doing everything I can during the competition. I’ve trained slowly, I’ve trained with weights, I’ve trained in the morning, and at night. I do everything to try and simulate conditions as well as onsighting routes without previewing them to encourage the instinct ability. I find training fun, challenging and for the most part motivating. I climbed so well during these world championships and had an unfortunate bouldering finals. That being said, I made it that far, and competing is all about minimizing the mistakes. Even the bouldering champion Dmiitri took 4 tries to do the first boulder… which was a mistake. He came back from it and took down the competition. Mistakes happen, and we try to recover the best we can from them. I also climbed my lead finals route in my opinion perfectly. If I had known I was in the lead a few moves before I fell, maybe I would’ve stopped like Jakob did to try and rest. Maybe that resting would’ve made me fall even lower, I just don’t know, and frankly don’t really care. I climbed perfectly in finals, and Jakob climbed even better, ’nuff said, congratulations Jakob!

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  1. Chad


    Really interesting post. This year I climbed some routes on rocks, 8c with rest in the middle, 8b/+ with rest in the middle. I sprint all first parts of routes. In that routes I found myself, that If I rest shorter, I was able to climb higher. In the end of trying I only chalk hands and climb, not rest there. Reduce rests was the key to that routes for me, but everybody else rest there a lot.
    Now I´m trying 55 moves 8b+ with rest in first part of the route. I trained it on plastic, that I made 20 -30 moves, than rest on jug and than climb next 20-30 moves. But I start to think about it, that I will not rest there on a route, just sprint up. I feel fresh until I start to rest 🙂 I think everybody needs to find his own way, how to climb. Your story helps me understand my own feelings on routes.

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