I recently had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Asia with a bunch of other extraordinary people. I began this journey on October 9th with 6 other athletes from the Austrian climbing team as well as one from the Netherlands. Our party start with the Austrian coach Heiko Wilhelm, their physio, and climbers Johanna Ernst, Magdalena Rock, Barbara Bacher, Katharina Posch, Mario Lechner and Jakob Schubert. The lone Dutchman on our trip was Jorg Verhoeven. [singlepic id=472 w=500 h=300 float=center] After a short flight from Toulouse, we all met up in Frankfurt and took the 9 hour flight to Beijing. It sucked as there was no TV in the headrest. I tried to sleep, read on my phone and listen to music, but it was probably one of the worst flights I’ve taken…. and I’ve taken quite a few in my life. After another flight into Xining and a 3 hour bus ride, we were at the compound near Xining and another World Cup around the corner. We went into “town” on the first couple of days we had before the competition, but this is remote China, and really there was nothing. The highlight of our days spent around Xining was taking a random taxi to a brick making facility. Now when I say facility, we’re not talking about North American factories or anything special like that. I’m talking about 100 people all with very specific jobs in making bricks… It was crazy. On top of it all, they didn’t seem to care that were only a few feet away watching them work and take pictures. That story might be for another time, but what I can say is that it was pretty cool. [singlepic id=480 w=500 h=400 float=center] Mammut that I was able to go on this trip. Without either of them, it wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you! I’m now on the way to Venezuela and I’ll be putting together a day to day recap of that competition as well as pictures to go along. I’ll be releasing those through a special media program that specializes in tablet and mobile media. You have to download the program, but it’s not just for climbing. More to come on that… This once was a long one, so thanks for reading. I hope you liked it!
As promised, this is the second part of the Innsbruck World Cup post. The first one can be found here. After semi-finals, I had flashed all 4 problems and I knew 100% that I’d be in finals. I knew that as I was matching the final hold of the round, and was ecstatic. After grabbing my stuff and talking to some of the other competitors, when I had finished flashing the third one, I was already in finals. To make finals, you had to do 3 problems in 8 tries, and get all the bonuses. Anna Stöhr. and Kilian Fischhuber were also in finals, so we biked back to their house to eat some much needed past, and take a short nap. I didn’t actually take a nap, just rested a bit and drank a lot of water. At 6:00pm, we were on our way back to the venue, with isolation closing at 6:30. Because we were pretty much still warm from the previous round, you don’t really need to warm up so much. I did a few laps on jugs, a few on crimps, I tried a bunch of random dynos and I was ready! 7:30 was the presentation followed by the observation. For some reason, they decided to let us preview the routes in a very strange order; 1, 4, 2 and finally 3. I guess they were just stressing about the time it took the announcer to get everyone out in front of the crowd. After looking at the problems, I knew 1 and 4 were going to be interesting for me, and 2 and 3 looked very possible. [singlepic id=354 w=320 h=480 float=left] As I qualified first, I would climb last and I’ve seen so many mixed guesses on whether it helps or hinders the competitors. At the end of the day, you go out to climb your boulder. I find that after being in finals a few times, where you climb is irrelevant. I’ve qualified first after semis in Eindhoven 2010, where I finished 2nd. It’s easy to look at the results and say, “oh he didn’t do well because he had to climb last”. Realistically, if no one does the problem, you have a chance to scoop everyone by being the last. On the other hand, if a bunch of people have done the problem, you might say there’s pressure, but I’d say “at least I know the problem is even possible”. It’s just a game, and the position is pretty irrelevant. I’m sure everyone “prefers” a certain position, but that would be different to each competitor. The first boulder had an awkward start leading in an undercling. I flashed up until the bonus, and reached up into this big donut feature. We didn’t really know what to do on the problem and being last out, I knew it hadn’t been completed. Flashing to the bonus was my first goal, and then I’d figure the rest out. I spend the better part of 4 minutes pretty much flailing to get off the feature, and I wasn’t even close… I could hear from the crowd while Jakob Schubert and Kilian were climbing that they were probably at least hitting the hold, but I wasn’t even coming close. On my best try, I would guess that I was still half a foot away from the hold, and I was told after that even if you could touch it, the swing was very hard to hold. After the first problem, I was still in the lead by flashing bonus… [singlepic id=355 w=480 h=320 float=center] The second problem was on the far right side of the wall, and had mostly features on it. There was a foothold near the end, and the last hold was an actual handhold. It went up a sort of corner using only volumes. Of the first 5 guys, only 1 person completed the problem, Kilian… Undeterred, I ran out and I knew it was possible. I jumped on and had a really good first run. I flashed up into the bonus and kept going. I was climbing for over a minute before getting up into the last move. I didn’t know how to navigate the last two volumes, from the ground; I thought I’d go double gaston (shoulder) while standing on the slopey foothold. When I got up there, that wasn’t so possible, so I went with what my instincts told me. I crossed up pretty high on the volume and started to press up. My right hand instinctively switched to a push with the palm but there was something lacking. Because I was up on triangle volumes, there was nothing for my left foot to push on to get my body weight to the right. I kept pushing up and up and finally brought my right hand into a non-existent undercling on the volume. My head was probably merely a foot away from the final hold, but I couldn’t let go of anything. I saw the tip of the volume down and left where my hand had been previously, and I knew if I could get my foot there, I was home free. I started bringing my left foot up the well when the unimaginable happened. My right foot had been on the slopey foothold too long, and must’ve pianoed off the good part, it slipped. As I came sailing down, I couldn’t believe it… So close, and I wondered if I could get up there again… I didn’t. I tried it another two times, but couldn’t execute the hard press up move at the beginning. [singlepic id=362 w=320 h=480 float=right] After going back to the tent, the last move proved deadly to Jakob as well, as he fell matching the final hold… I knew after two problems that I was still in second place, only to Kilian. The third problem was very straight forward, and probably the most powerful problem of them all. Out of the first 5 climbers, Rustam Gelmanov and Kilian went out and flashed it. The other didn’t sound extremely close, which meant it was hard again. I went out, flashed the bonus, and chose the wrong hand to go up with for the second to last move. I was so physically tired from the second, that when I went on my second try, and saw the high foothold out right, I knew it would be good to setup for the move after. Turns out that with your foot that high, the first move was too hard, so I fell again. My third try was almost as good as my first, but after doing the first few moves 3 times, I just couldn’t pull hard enough. After this boulder, I knew I was in 3rd, and not able to win the world cup. Unphased, the new goal was 2nd or 3rd. When the first few climbers were unable to do the 4th boulder, 3rd place was looking as the best option. With Rustam unable to do the boulder, I knew that if I flashed the last boulder, I’d come second, if I flashed the zone, I’d come 3rd, and if I couldn’t get zone, I’d be 4th-6th. When none of the first 5 climbers did the 4th, I was really focusing on flashing the zone. Just before going out, I asked Anna if she could win the competition. She replied very calmly “yes, but I have to flash the last one”… I replied “you can do it, good luck”. [singlepic id=356 w=480 h=320 float=center] We ran out to the last boulder together, and I knew mine was straight forward. I grabbed the very high start holds, tagged up my feet and jumped for the first volume. It was a very long and hard move, but my left hand luckily and instinctively swapped into a semi undercling grip. As my feet came back in from the swing, I knew I was going to get zone. I loaded my heel just over my hand and engaged my core. I pulled up off my right hand, and the volume was much closer than I thought. I palmed the bottom just for the judge, and then latched onto the top. For a split second, I knew I was in third, but then my competition mind quickly took over. Need to top!!! I looked up, and I knew it was a sort of dyno. One or two hands. I did the best I could, jumped, but the hold was too far away, and I was falling. I hit the ground with a big smile on my face. I knew that I had come 3rd, and there was now no possible way to move up. Even if I did the boulder second try, I’d still come 3rd. As I was thinking about this, Anna was still on her flash attempt and a few moves away. They looked easy as she completed the last few moves of her final boulder, so I just watched in awe and started clapping. Anna had won the world cup in Innsbruck in front of her hometown crowd of thousands. She matched the finish, turned around with a big smile, waved and it was obvious she was delighted. After she had jumped down, it was just me, and my last boulder. For me, it was just pride now for the last. As I said before, I couldn’t move positions, but I could still do this boulder! I tried it another 4-5 times, but always fell at the same move. I also tried 2-3 other foot beta sequences, but none worked much better than the others. After trying it a few more times, my knee started to get sore, and with 10 seconds left on my timer, I just turned around, clapped my hands a few times and just waved at the crowd in Innsbruck. [singlepic id=357 w=480 h=320 float=center] I was back on the podium, and beside two extraordinary climbers. Kilian had won, and Rustam was second. Full results of the men can be found here. On the women’s side, as I mentioned Anna had won. Shauna Coxsey of the UK was second with Melissa LaNeve from France taking third. Full results of the women can be found here as well.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve been in finals at a bouldering World Cup, although every time you make it that far, you remember every moment of it. As I’m already at well over 1000 words for just qualifiers and semis, I’m going to split this post in two. If you would prefer to only read the finals post, click here. All the photos in this post were taken by Heiko Wilhelm! I’ve just finished a trip to the bouldering world cup in Innsbruck where I managed to grab a spot on the podium and finish in 3rd place. My trip started with a very epic travelling day, which can be found HERE. The next morning were the qualifiers and the men were to go first. For the weekend, I was staying with two of the best of competition climbers on the circuit, Kilian Fischhuber and Anna Stöhr. They lived a short bike ride from the gym, and because parking was going to be epic, we rode bikes to the competition every day. It felt good to ride a bike to a competition as it warmed up the muscles a bit, and I felt more useful just by doing some cardio in the morning. [singlepic id=359 w=320 h=480 float=left] The qualifiers for the men were very standard. 5 boulders for each of the 2 groups on their own part of the walls. The route setters tried their best to make the two groups have similar problems, and for the most part, they were good. My first qualifier was pretty easy, as was the second. The third had a somewhat blind dyno around a volume so I fell once and sent second go. The fourth boulder was the hardest physical boulder but after doing the first three, I felt good and flashed it. The last boulder was the hardest mentally as it was a slab. I did it a slightly harder way by not switching to a palm press earlier but managed to do the last one second go. I finished qualifiers with 5 tops in 7 tries and 5 bonuses in 6. I knew I had climbed well, and I was pretty confident I was going to be making it through near the head of the pack. After watching qualifiers for another 2 hours, I finished in 3rd place in my group. To qualify to semis in my group, you had to do 4 boulders in 9 or less tries. In the other group, the problems were a bit harder with 3 boulders in 4 tries being the cut off for semi-finals. After qualifiers, I biked back to the house, and then drove to the airport to pick up my bag. Sometime in the morning while we were competing, Anna was called by the airport saying my bag had arrived. It was there, undamaged, and I was just relieved to have it back. I biked back down to the competition to watch the first half of the women do their qualifiers. It started getting pretty hot half way through, and to save energy for the next day, we watched the rest on the live stream. [singlepic id=360 w=320 h=480 float=right] Semi-finals were on the Saturday and started at 12:30. We had a super mellow morning, a few coffees and many cups of tea while waiting to go down to the competition. Fast forward a couple more hours and we were well into the semi-final round. When the round started, one of the first people to go out was a British climber named Stewart Watson. He’s a very talented climber from the UK but is now living in Innsbruck. From the crowd’s reaction, as well as the very obvious MC, everyone knew he had flashed the first two boulders… Usually when that happens, the boulders are a bit too easy, and it becomes a game of tries where one slip could put you from 4th to 20th or something ridiculous like that. You try to forget about it, but it’s always in the back of your mind. I was 15th out or so and warming up was very easy as it was much warmer than the previous day. I knew where my boulders were, and I know it started with the slab. I was a bit happy that a bunch of people were doing the slab because it meant that it probably wasn’t the hardest problem. When I finally came out, I was excited. I looked at the first slab problem, and it looked obvious. I did the first couple moves and tried to move out right, the zone hold was too far, and I got stuck for a while. I couldn’t downclimb the move, so I only had one option. I bumped my left hand in about 6 inches while my right hand was palming the wall. I knew if I didn’t hit the two finger screw on perfectly, I’d fall. I guess I had a moment of clarity, as my two fingers hit just right and my weight was against the wall again. From there, I reached the zone and did the last move of the boulder. 1 boulder done, and I felt good. As I jumped down, Kilian was also jumping down from the second, and judging by the time that remained, I knew he had flashed it as well. I can tell you right now that knowing a climber has flashed a boulder does not make the boulder easier. I would prefer it I knew the problem had never been done, so I can be the first to do it, and if I still can’t do it, then no harm done. The problem with knowing that one or a handful of people have done a problem is that in your head, you think “if I don’t do this problem, I probably won’t advance” which is extremely hard for your head. Every climber has to find their own way to deal with it. The way that I try to think of it is “if he did, then at least it’s possible, and I hope I can do it as well”. [singlepic id=361 w=320 h=480 float=left] 7-8 minutes later, I was running out to the second. At first look, I thought the first move was a dyno to a pocket and volume. When I went to pull on, I realized that it wasn’t a dyno. The first few moves were a bit weird, and the crux was getting to the zone and matching. The problem had pretty high feet, which suited me pretty well. It was also straight on climbing, with no edges to grab (compression style) which is bad for me. I managed to stick the zone, match it, and flash the problem as well. 2 for 2. I also looked over in the direction of problem 3, and saw no one standing there, which meant Kilian had already flashed 3 and gone back inside the tent… oh my. From inside the tent, you can tell when someone completes the boulder because they come running back to the tent before their time is zone… it’s pretty obvious. I knew the third boulder was the hardest, but it was still hard. Kilian had flashed it; Lukas Ennemoser had done it in a few tries as well as some other climbers I had noticed. When I went out to the problem, it had a painfully obvious sequence. It looked to be straight forward to the zone hold, then a jump to a feature, and a somewhat easy looking final move. I knew the crux was going to be the jump. It turns out that I was right about the crux, although I still managed to execute it perfectly in the sense that I was matching the final hold and I hadn’t fallen. I was a bit shocked that I had done it so fast, although you don’t ask yourselves those types of questions while competing. I thought if I had flashed 3 problems, you probably needed 4 to make it to finals. I thought this because I could hear that some people had done 4, and I also knew Kilian had done the last one in 3 or 4 tries as he came back to the tent to grab his stuff with a minute still left on the clock. While waiting for the fourth problem, I was determined to do it. In my mind, I was hoping that 3 flash would be enough, but then again, I’ve seen it where 3 isn’t enough… I went out to the fourth, and was a bit shocked to see what it was. There was only a few holds on the wall, and it was a volume problem. I like volumes although these were mostly underclings, so it would be hard. It turned out that the first two moves were some of the hardest moves. I almost fell on the first move, but somehow stayed on and perched up into the double undercling. I went up onto the next two which were symmetrical, placed my right foot up and thrutched for the last hold. The last move was also very hard but I jumped hard enough and controlled the finish. 4 flash… a perfect semi-finals. I turned around while still on the finish hold and did the classic tennis fist-pump! I knew I’d be advancing to finals, and the feeling of flashing all the semi-final boulders is something unique. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m going to split the post. The finals post can be found by clicking here!