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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Canmore World Cup, 2011

The pictures for this competition haven’t been sorted by my father, but he’s promised to do it in the next couple of days. I’ll be making posts with lots of pictures for those, then the post for the Vail world cup followed by pictures from that competition as well! Enjoy. I’ve just finished the first World Cup of the 2011 season. It went pretty well to say the least. This world cup in Canmore was the first of the season for me and it always involves a challenge. Because I live in Canada, I don’t get to see how I’ve been training very often, really it’s only at competitions. It’s a similar story for when I was a junior competing at Junior Worlds. I would compete all year in Canada with the biggest competition being Junior Nationals. It would be a good competition, but nowhere near the caliber of Junior Worlds. I would go to Junior Worlds and just hope that I had trained enough to take on the tough European and Asian countries. Usually I had trained enough and I had great competitions. It’s similar with world cups as well, at the start of September; I travel back to Canada to go to school. Throughout the fall and winter, I train as much as I can while trying to manage my hectic school schedule. When spring/summer finally arrives, I’m always wondering how much I’ve actually trained. Of course I get to compete in the Canadian Tour De Bloc competitions as well as regionals and nationals. This year, I competed in a handful of local competitions including the prestigious Seattle Bouldering Challenge that pulls in climbers from all around the North-West. I also got to travel down to Boulder, CO for the ABS Nationals as well. This year, I decided not to compete at TDB Regionals and decided to set instead. At the TDB Nationals in Toronto, I finished 2nd to Magnus Midboe from Norway. Because he wasn’t Canadian, I still won the overall Canadian rankings for the 2011 season. So getting back to my training, I train all fall and winter without very many big competitions to see how my training has paid off. This is why the first world cup of the season for me is so important. I get to see how well I’m climbing compared to the other world cup climbers. The first day in Canmore was a pretty weird one for qualifiers. I went into isolation in the morning and it was snowing, heavily. To get snow at the end of May in Canmore is not standard and I don’t want the Europeans to get the wrong impression of Canada. It rarely even snows in Vancouver and it’s abnormally cold in Alberta for this time of year as well. So it was snowing, but the isolation was at the Vsion so it wasn’t cold warming up. I did my usual warm up and got my bus over to the competition. There was another warm up wall behind the competition wall, but most of the competitors were huddled around propane heaters to keep their limbs warm. For qualifiers, I flashed the first problem as well as the fourth. The second problem was ridiculously hard, and no one even topped it. I felt good on it, as I flashed to the second to last move, but because the holds were not quite crimps, but kind of slopey crimps, it just got harder over the 5 minutes you were standing there. The third problem in qualifiers rocked my world. I just couldn’t figure it out. There was one foot sequence after you gained this big volume that was very important to actually standing up into the bonus, and for some reason, I didn’t think to match my feet before doing a big right foot high step. I finished the third problem without even touching zone. As I mentioned before, I flashed the fourth problem, and the 5th problem was a slab that only a handful of people accomplished. I finished qualifiers with 2tops/in2 and 4bonus/in4. I was in 12th place going into semis and I was pretty happy. I knew I hadn’t climbed my best, but I still flashed two problems and was sitting in a good position. The next day came, and semifinals started. Most of the world cup climbers agree that the semifinal is the hardest round. To go from 20 climbers down to 6 is a pretty big jump. Moreover, once you’re in finals, you’re top 6 and generally you climb pretty well. After another standard warm up followed by a bus trip, I was on my first semis problem which went up a slightly overhanging wall. I made it to the last move twice, but couldn’t clutch the final hold. The problem was very basic with very small crimps leading to a nasty sloper and a somewhat mantle finish. I flashed bonus, but couldn’t finish the problem. I assumed that because the climber before me had flashed the problem, it probably wasn’t good news for me. When I’m competing in semis, or finals, or even qualifiers for that matter, I try to take the round one boulder at a time. There’s no point in fussing over whether or not you’ve done the boulder previous, or even what boulders other climbers are doing. It turns out that the climber that climbed before me, (flashing semis 1) was the only person in the whole comp to do the boulder, and he qualified in first going into finals… Getting on with my semis, our second boulder only had 3 handholds on it, (4 including the finish). It went straight up a corner wrestling yourself in between two long trapezoids. It looked pretty basic, just hard. It started with a big move left, and then I thought a kneebar, leading to the two volumes that I figured was just one of the problems that you had to “feel” your way up. I got up into the volumes, and it felt super hard. I’m generally pretty good at these types of problems, and I was almost falling the whole time. I was using my knees, then twisting my hands back and forth, and the only good thing coming out of all this was I was actually moving in an upwards motion. After what seemed like minutes, I was up high enough to position my feet, slowly look up and grab the finish hold. Reset my feet and match. I was psyched. I knew that this problem was pretty hard, and only a handful of people would be doing it I thought. The third problem was even harder than the second. The first move was a big move out left, followed by an actual rock over and then into a roof. I spent the first half my time trying to do the first few moves, only to get stopped in the roof because I couldn’t actually hold on to the holds. After an abysmal 5 minutes on that boulder, I didn’t even get close to the zone hold. I guess I was like 1.5, 2 holds away from the zone, but it didn’t really feel like I was close at all, unless I could’ve gotten my left foot up onto the second hold. I found out after the round that no one had even established zone, with only two people even touching it. When I came out for the last problem, I knew it had seen multiple ascents just by how fast the climbers were coming back after going out. I felt like because many people were doing it, this was kind of a “must do” to have a chance to get into finals. I took my time while preparing for the problem to make sure I wasn’t tired from the third problem. The first move was a dyno, then two very straight forward moves to the top. It was just dyno, left hand up, then an obvious right foot heel hook to the finish move. The heel hook was very high, but I know I’m very strong in those types of moves, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big problem. It took me two tries to stick the dyno, but once I stuck the dyno, the second move easy, and once I was rocked up on my heel, I reached static to the finish hold and campus matched. It took 2 tries to do the fourth problem, but I was happy. The only problem I felt like I couldn’t done but didn’t was the first, but any competitor can tell you that when they’re touching the last hold on a world cup boulder problem, they’re going to be a bit disappointed if they can’t complete it… I finished semis with 2tops/in3 and 3bonus/in4. Shortly after finishing semis, I found out that it was only going to take 2 tops to make finals. I knew because I had a low number of attempts, I had a really good shot at making finals, but with 11 climbers behind me, I just crossed my fingers and waited. By the end of the round, no one had passed me, and I finished semis in second position with the climber who did the first problem topping 3 problems and qualifying in finals. With me in finals were 2 Japanese climbers including Atsushi Shimizu, Tsukuru Hori, a Slovenian Klement Becan, a German Stefan Danker, a Dutch Wouter Jongeneelen, and myself. To make finals, you just had to do two boulders in semis. Although the person who qualified in first had done 3 problems, the person in 6th place had done 2 tops in 13 tries and the person just outside of finals had flashed one problem and 3 zones as well. For the women, going into finals, in order, it was Mina Markovic, Akiyo Noguchi, Anna Stohr, Julia Wurm, Jain Kim and Alex Puccio. We only had a three hour break in between rounds so I ate a sandwich and drank a large coffee. For me, this is almost perfect competition food. I was super tired from the first two rounds of climbing, but like I said, the hardest round is semis, and I know my adrenalin and my inner competition mode would just take over in finals. Low and behold, I was right because as soon as I started changing into my climbing pants and taking off my sweatshirt to warm up for finals, I felt like I could’ve gone out and climbed right then. Because I was so warmed up from semis, I didn’t even need to warm up for finals very much. Just making finals in the first World Cup of Canada was an amazing feeling. Before this competition, I thought it would be amazing if I could make finals. Once I made finals, I was just dreaming of how awesome it would be if my first World Cup win came on home soil, and the first time Canada was host country. All of these ideas floating around my head, but at the base of it all, I just wanted to climb, and hopefully climb well. At the end of the night, I would be happy with any place in finals, and it’s such an experience and privilege to be able to compete in these competitions as well as making finals. Finals went very standard for the presentation, preview and opening finals ceremonies. I do have to admit that even though I was in 2nd place into finals, I’m pretty sure that the cheers for the lone Canadian during presentation trumped those of the other competitors. It’s such a great feeling, knowing that you know over half of the people in the crowd, and some of the people; you’ve been growing up with since you were 10. After preview, all the climbers were pretty excited. The problems all looked pretty hard, and I knew that the 3rd and 4th problems were better suited to me than the first two. The first one looked pretty straight forward with a hard finishing move, the second problem was a slab, so pretty much a coin flip, the 3rd one was straight power up a 45 degree wall, and the 4th one looked a bit tricky at the beginning to an interesting finish. Because I was in 2nd place going into finals, I went 5th out during finals. Even from behind the wall, you can usually tell whether or not someone has completed the problem. By the time it got to me, I actually thought no one had done the problem, but I found out after that Tsukuru had actually done it! I fell off the last move twice, trying to jump sideways/down to the final hold after mantling up an awkward circle feature. I realized it right away when I fell off my first try, but I had gotten super bad whiplash coming off the last move. I dynoed right towards the final hold and tried to catch it with my left hand. Generally, if you know you’re going to fall, you land on your feet, and sometimes if you think you’re going to stick it, and you don’t, well, the landing isn’t always so sweet after that. This was one of those times, and I thought I could stick so my body went into a superman, and then when I couldn’t hold on, I started flipping over, so my hands hit first, then my legs and I whipped my head down and then up coming off. Because you’re competing, you don’t care so much but I figured it’d be sore the coming week. The second problem was the slab, and I figured I’d be happy if I got off the starting holds. It was a mantle into a blind foot stab towards the right, and then you had to shift your weight to the right, grab the arête, bring your feet up and jump for the finish. When the climbers before me went out (Klement and Anna), they said I was up after about 40 seconds, and I knew they had flashed them… oh well. I struggled on the second move a few times and came very close to getting bonus, but I couldn’t actually reach the bonus hold while on my left foot, and fell multiple times trying to hit the arête. It’s hard when you get problems that aren’t your forte, but it’s all in the game, and I knew the last two were more suited for me anyways. After four people went out on the 3rd problem, I didn’t think anyone had done it although the same Japanese Tsukuru had flashed it or second go as well. I came out, and you don’t think about the other climbers. It’s just you and the problem, and hopefully you get to the top. I slipped out of the second move when I didn’t anticipate my foot coming off, and fired the problem second go. The problem was perfectly suited to me. Long hard moves on good holds, with a tricky heel hook in the middle and an outright stab to the Teknik PinchTight finish hold. I was just so happy that I had topped a problem in finals in front of my home crowd and I could feel the energy coming off the crowd as well. I felt psyched going into the last problem, and I figured if I did the last problem, and no one else did, I still had a shot of winning. The last problem proved to be trickier than we had imagined. It started with a weird mantle that I spend 2 minutes on my first attempt trying to solve and eventually just jumping off and attacking it a different way. My second try was much better as I reached up into the zone, but after jumping out to the volume, setting up my feet and matching, I could feel myself getting pumped. After a minor foot slip, I was coming down. I looked at the clock, and saw 30 seconds :(. Oh well, the crowd was into it, I had made finals, and I topped the third problem. I was already so happy. I rested for 25 seconds, gave a wave to the crowd and stepped on for my last try at the Canmore World Cup. I got up to the same move that I fell, but the pure exhaustion of finals was starting to take over. I fell with a huge smile on my face to a huge “ohh” from the crowd quickly followed by cheering. After the dust had settled, the Tsukuru had secured his first World Cup victory by completing two problems in 3 tries with Klement coming in 2nd with 2 tops in 5 tries. Because I was the only other climber to top a problem, I took the bronze medal this time after an amazing two days. There it was, I had come third place in the first ever Canadian World Cup, in front of many of my friends. I always think I climb better in front of my friends, especially at high level competitions. I was so happy, words cannot explain. Of course, you always reflect after a competition, but right now, I was getting ready to go on the podium and represent my country at a world event. As I mentioned, this was Tsukuru’s first world cup victory, and he has made finals over 10 times including a second place finish in Vail last year. The whole competition was full of amazing climbers and I was happy to be amongst them. The awards ceremony was great, and I kept having more and more people coming up to me and congratulating me. I think it was cool for all the Canadians to see a World Cup live, and I think it’s so cool that I made the podium in our first one. I didn’t get to watch any of the finals, but the women had done many more problems in finals than the men with the win going to Akiyo Noguchi from Japan as well with Anna Stohr in 2nd by only one fall. Full results can be found at the following links: Men’s Results Women’s Results I’m now en route to my next world cup of the season in Vail, CO.  

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    Hi Sean,

    I just found this and am enjoying your blow-by-blow accounts of your world cup experiences – keep it up!
    I am curious, where would the problems in quali/semis/finals fall approximately on the V-scale? Does it vary widely?
    Thanks and good luck with the rest of your season!


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