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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Arco Pre World-Championships

The Arco Rockmasters has been a competition since 1988. It is one of the oldest climbing competitions in the world and I’ve had the privileged to compete in it two times. In 2006, after winning junior world championships in Imst, I was invited for the lead portion at Arco. In 2008, I was invited for the boulder part of the competition. In 2006, I placed 14th in lead, and in 2008 I finished 5th in bouldering. This year was a bit different, they decided to hold a pre world championships. In 2011, they are going to hold the real world championships and this was a chance to get ready for it and have another amazing competition. Last year at the world championships in Qinghai China, I won the overall ranking by placing 5th in lead and 6th in bouldering. I figured I’d do all the events at this competition as well. The only problem is that the pre world championships are only going to be 3 days, which is a lot less than the 5-6 days the world championships usually take. This just meant that I was going have to do boulder and lead qualifiers in the same day. The schedule is outlined HERE. I looked at the schedule before going to the competition and I knew it was going to be a handful, especially if I actually managed to make semis and even finals in both boulder and lead. Another great thing about the competition is that they gave each federation a hotel for two people for almost the whole event. The event ran from the 15-18th, and they gave us hotels until the 18th. We didn’t have a hotel on the 18th, but I guess they figured people would be leaving just after the award ceremony at 3pm. As for the competitors, I was one of the few to try and compete in all 3 disciplines. Cedric Lachat and Klement Becan were also aiming to compete in all disciplines as well. The night of the 15th was the technical meeting and briefing. Everything was pretty straight forward and the timetable was so tight. They put lots of emphasis on the fact that everything has to run pretty well for everything to work. They also put in a separate clause that allowed for competitors competing in multiple disciplines a chance to change their running order to give them the needed rest time. I was given 9 different numbers for the whole weekend and the numbers were big! [singlepic id=141 w=320 h=240 float=center] The competition started on the 16th in the morning with boulder qualifiers. I looked at the wall the night before and it looked awesome! They had 5 different walls with some cool looking volumes. After a nice warm-up, I headed out for my boulder qualifiers. The first problem was pretty weird, a giant slab with a big round volume right in the middle. There were no holds for the finish and it was just a big kind of mantle. I find these problems are super fun to climb, it doesn’t take a lot of strength, just the ability to feel your way up the wall. I want to set something like this at a competition in Canada. It would be interesting to see how many competitors actually figured it out. After moving through the beginning of the problem, I started mantling and I was fortunate enough to have my feet stick to the ridiculously sticky wall, and mantled the blob. In the picture, I’m not actually touching any holds, just the surfaces of the wall, working up the little corner on the slab! [singlepic id=134 w=320 h=240 float=center] The second problem was pretty awkward as well. It started with a jump to a pretty good hold and the structure, then make a weird move to the finish. I didn’t end up getting this problem mostly because I was trying to do it wrong I think. I saw another competitor after just jump for the finish hold and he was tall enough to keep his left hand on the previous hold. I tried jumping a couple of times for the last hold but it was turned in the wrong direction to snatch. I then tried to climb up through the volumes like in the picture, only to fall again jumping for the last hold… oh well. [singlepic id=135 w=320 h=240 float=center] The third problem was painfully straightforward. Just heel hooks and big moves. I was excited when I saw the problem, but was not psyched while climbing it. I felt like the holds were so far apart it almost hurt. Even though it was big moves, I still made it up to the last move. The hard part was that the zone hold was one of those holds that isn’t flush against the wall where you grab it. I like holds that are flush so that I can dig my nails into the wood. These holds, you just can’t because you can’t dig your finger nails into the hold texture. I got all the way up to the last move, and fell trying to re-adjust my hand to jump for the final hold. I was a bit crushed in the fact that I was falling at the last move of the last two problems but I knew I had to just keep focused for the last problem. [singlepic id=136 w=320 h=240 float=center] Usually there’s 5 problems in qualifiers during world cups, but I guess in an effort to speed up the competition, there was only 4 at this specific competition. The funny part is that even if you add a 5th problem, it only extends the competition by a mere 10 minutes… The fourth and last problem was also pretty straight forward. You had to make your way straight out this feature and do a weird side move to the final hold. I got all the way up to the last move, and by some miracle managed to push my shoulder around the feature and flash it. I was pretty surprised that I had flashed it, but I found out after that I had to at least complete 2 problems to make semis so it’s a good thing that I got through it! [singlepic id=137 w=320 h=240 float=center] I finished the session with 2 tops in 2 tries and 4 bonuses in 4 or 5 tries. I was pretty happy with how I had climbed but I knew I could do better. I landed myself in 10th place so I’d go out 11th in semis finals the next day. I didn’t have much time to relax because I had to do the speed climbing wall twice in about 2 hours. This is where it started getting a bit hard. I had 2 hours, then I had to do the speed route a couple of times. After that, I had another hour rest before I had to climb in lead. For the lead, it was the standard two flash routes. The speed part of the day went pretty well, I set some new personal records for the official speed route at 15.00 seconds and then 14.95 on my second run. The world record is just over 6 seconds so I have a long way to go… Luckily I still think speed is an absolute joke for me and I just need to do it for the overall points. Next on the agenda was lead. This will be the third discipline that I’ll do today and I was starting to get tired. I also knew that I had to do two different flash routes. I was happy that it was flash so I didn’t worry about the fact that I was getting tired. All in all, both my routes went super well. I ended up flashing my first one and falling in the last 4 moves of my second one. There’s not really any super stories to go along with these routes. They were just long endurance routes. I also know that on my first route, I didn’t stop to chalk up until the roof near the end of the route. I just didn’t need to. I usually tons of liquid chalk before I go up the route and I have to climb so fast as to not get as pumped. The second route where I fell near the end, I wasn’t going any further. I was already pretty happy that I gotten up that high, and I knew 100% that I was going to be making semis in a great position. I finished the lead round in 8th place or something, which meant I was supposed to go out 18th the next day. When the next day came around, I got to the competition to watch the girls finish their bouldering semi finals. After that, I went into isolation for lead. Because I was supposed to run 18th in lead, and then I didn’t have much of a rest before bouldering semis, I asked the officials to change my start number in the semi finals for lead. They said yes, and I got to go out 8th. After a pretty short warm up, I was already ready to go out. I waited for a while to make sure I wasn’t going to be pumped and I went out. The semi final route was pretty cool. It was on the left part of the Arco wall and went pretty much straight up. Again, there were no huge rests which meant I was going to be moving pretty quickly. I fell up near the top in a pretty hard move around the corner of the wall. I changed my running position to go out 8th and when I came down, they told me I was in the lead. I wasn’t really thinking about finals because there were a lot of people still to go, but I knew that it would probably be very close because where I fell was a bunch of hard moves in a row. [singlepic id=133 w=320 h=240 float=center] As it turns out, I was right and eventually I made finals. Because of a clipping mistake made by Patxi Usobiaga, I was sitting in 7th place with Patxi in 8th. I quickly realized that I was going to be doing lead finals TONIGHT just after the bouldering semi finals… I had mixed emotions, I was starting to get super tired and I still had to do boulder semi finals before trying to compete in finals. A few hours later, I was in isolation about to go out for bouldering semi finals. By now, I didn’t actually have to warm up much because I was still warm from the previous round. It was a nice feeling but at the same time, I knew my body was going to be sore and so on. I came out for my first boulder and it was in the same place as the qualifiers. There was a discrepancy with the judge on this first problem but I ended up not even getting bonus. [singlepic id=138 w=320 h=240 float=center] The second semi problem suited me nicely. It started with no feet and did a couple of funky moves on heel hooks before doing a big stem and hucking for the top. The last hold was a jug and I flashed the problem pretty easily! [singlepic id=139 w=320 h=240 float=center] Although I don’t have a picture for the third problem, I made the bonus hold but couldn’t finish the problem. After the round, I found out that no one had completed this problem. The fourth problem went up another dihedral. It started with some funky moves with some bumps, then a small dyno to the bonus. By the time I got to the bonus, I was super tired. It took me two tries to get the bonus and then I fell on the last move. I was just plainly out of energy. I looked down and realized I had a big hold in my left ring finger and was pretty bloody. I still had two minutes on the clock so I was torn on what to do. I licked off the blood and put some chalk on it. I walked to the start of the problem in hopes of trying it again, but quickly changed my mind. Sadly, I wasn’t sure if I could even do the problem and with my lead finals in a few hours, I didn’t want to make my finger any worse. Even sadder was the fact that if I had done that problem, I’d have made boulder finals we well. [singlepic id=140 w=320 h=240 float=center] I finished the round with pretty much 1 flash and 3 bonuses, but it wasn’t enough for finals and I finished 8th. I was still happy with my result and I knew that I had lead finals in a few hours. Cedric and Klement both ended up making boulder finals which is pretty cool. Cedric also made finals for lead where Klement did not. Another couple of hours passed and I was sitting in isolation for lead finals… So much climbing in two days. This will be the 6th time that I’m supposed to warm up for a world cup climbing route in two days. It felt like I was trying to do two world cups in the same weekend, it was heinous. At least last year in China, we had the 3 disciplines split up over 5 days with a full rest day on the third for the speed finalists and team relay. After a minimal warm up, I went out for presentation and preview. In my head, I didn’t care how I did, I already knew I was the weakest lead climber that made finals. [singlepic id=132 w=320 h=240 float=center] Because I qualified 7th, I had to go just after Patxi. Just after me was Cedric, and I knew he was as tired as I was. I knew that he had gone through everything that I had gone through and he had to do boulder finals as well as duel on the 3rd day as well. I knew I only had to do the duel and not boulder finals. [singlepic id=130 w=320 h=240 float=center] After a long presentation and observation, I got ready to go out. While I was waiting, I heard Patxi fall very early in the route. I though maybe he had slipped or something like that. I went out and I was pretty excited. When I got on the route, I completely forgot that I was super tired. [singlepic id=131 w=320 h=240 float=center] Unfortunately, there was a very hard move near the beginning of the route. I got a bit nervous and tried to jump to the next hold. Just to overlay mistakes, I didn’t preview very well and the next hold, which I thought was a crimp on the top, was actually a pocket with a crimp in the middle. When I jumped, I grabbed nothing, and fell… embarrassing. I finishing finals in 8th position but like I said before, I was just happy that I had made it and I got to compete in duel the next day. Flashing onto the next day, Cedric Lachat managed to WIN bouldering… That is a feat in itself and the fact that he did lead and boulder is even more props to Cedric! Moving onto the duel, I’m going to explain this a bit. Most of you probably don’t know what the duel is. It’s a mix between speed climbing and lead climbing. There’s two identical routes on identical walls side by side. In short, it’s a race. There’s a buzzer at the top and the first climber to hit the buzzer wins that round. A couple things are different than pure speed. First of all, the route was 7c (5.12d) and it is always on lead. Another thing is that it’s pretty long so you get tired. I’ve always wanted to try the duel because I thought I’d be good at it. I naturally climb pretty fast, and I was also sometimes good at speed climbing as well. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at duel but definitely not the best. My first race was against Ramonet and I had the most fun I’ve had climbing a lead route. It’s hard to explain but the adrenaline that’s flowing through your body and the endorphins produced by your brain is something different when you’re “dueling”. The feeling is so cool. I beat Ramonet in my first run which means I advanced to top 4 climbers. My second race was against Romain Desgranges. I also ended up beating him which means I advanced to the final round against Adam Ondra. The final duel is on you-tube but I warm you now, Adam destroys me! As you can see it’s very important to click fast and I failed abysmally in that run. All in all, I had a ton of fun at this year’s Arco Rockmasters. As it turns out, there was a small technicality with the overall rankings. Usually you have to do all 3 disciplines to be ranked. One of the IFSC people said that it was alright to only do 2 out of 3 events. Just before the podium’s, they changed their minds and said they had to do all 3. Even though Cedric won bouldering and came 6th in lead, I was declared the winner because I had done Speed as well. Pretty lame if you ask me. It should have been Cedric in first and me in second but according to the official rules, I won. I hope you liked this post, it’s 3000 words long and I tried to make it interesting, I love reading comments on how I can blog better!

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Comments (10)

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    Biffo

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    Congrats on the Arco results, you had a lot of fans cheering for you in the webcast chat thing. I wouldn’t be mega bummed about the final lead route, I think three others feel on that sequence.

    Reply

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    John Meget

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    Sean, just a note to tell you you have something of a gift for telling what happens during these comps. I really enjoy your blogs, and hope you keep doing them.

    Reply

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    Rudi

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    I definitly like all your posts…hope you are not going to stop, cause it’s pretty inspiring to read your blog…keep going!

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Sean McColl

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    Thanks for all the encouragement, I love writing up the competitions and there’s usually more of a story if I end up doing well.

    Reply

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    Jesse

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    Great post Sean! You give great insight into competing at the highest level and the descriptions of all the problems are intense. The setting in Europe seems to be very different from North America. Those features are wild! My hands are sweating like crazy now, I had to chalk up just to type this. Good luck at the next comp (and on your projects)!

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    Apes

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    Mike and I like it when you talk about your crotch being ripped in half.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Joel

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    That was a lot of fun. Thanks for posting.

    Reply

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    Buzz

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    The speed you guys climbed that 12d was impressive. Did you get a chance to take a few practice runs on it or was it onsight ?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      The first time we climbed it, it was onsight, and then during the semi and final rounds, it was the 2nd, and 3rd time respectively that we had done the route.

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