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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

World Cup Hall, Austria

Well another World Cup has come and passed. This one was in Hall, Austria. Hall is about 10km just outside of Innsbruck. The competition started with 78 men and 46 women. Because there were so many people registered in the competition, the organizers decided to run the climbers on two different sets of problems. They split the competitors in two different groups and ran them on different 5 qualifying problems. Some might argue that this is unfair because the best climbers could be in one group and it a way, they´re right. Although, the way they split the climbers is based on their WorldRanking, so every second person based on their WorldRanking would go in a group. If all the top 10 climbers were there 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 would be in one group and 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 would be in the other. All in all, they assume all the strong climbers will make it through to semi finals where the problems are usually a lot harder.

I had a World Ranking of 11 because of my competitions last year and the fact that I didn´t go to the world cup in Japan. I was in group B which I thought had more strong people in it, but really it just doesn´t matter. I was really nervous most of my warm up just because I hadn´t competed in a world cup for over 8 months. The last few world cups I have done were all lead in September. The last Boulder world cup I did was back in July in Montauban, France. I always warm up expecting the qualifyers to be the hardest problems I´ve ever tried. I mean, this is world cup right? Hardest problems in the world aren´t they? I figure it´s a pretty good mind set so when I am able to flash a few, it´s a great morale booster. For qualifyers, there´s always 5 problems and 5 minutes per problem with your 5 minute rest in between. I´ve done the format so many times it´s almost second nature to me.

I came out and my first problem was a nice little slab one… great. In fact, I quite enjoy doing slab problems, it´s so different than all the problems back in North America, it feels like even an easy slab problem is challenging for me. I flashed the first problem as well as the second problem which went up a little dihedrial and then made its way up a small prow. After flashing the first two problems, I felt pretty good, 3 problems left. I expected the last 3 problems to be pretty hard to make up for the first two being pretty.

When I saw the 3rd problem, I wasn´t sure what to do. It seemed pretty obvious until the bonus hold but from there, I wasn´t sure whether to make my way left to a bad yellow sloper and then throw to the corner, or just match on the bonus and go straight to the corner. I got on and fell trying to throw left to the yellow. On my second try, I tried to match the bonus hold which was a big sloper and my feet popped and I fell. Kind of annoyed, I rested for a good minute and a half and tried it again. When I went to match the sloper, my feet stayed miraculously and I drove up the corner, I kind of reverse cupped the corner hold and threw to the finish. It turns out that the 3rd problem was actually the hardest, followed closely by number 4. The 4th problem was just a plain and simple dyno. The hard part wasn´t the dyno itself but where the holds were placed. You set up for the dyno one move off the starting holds by doing a little cross over. The hard part was the fact that they put a big round volume right in front of the next hold so you couldn´t see it. Before dynoing, you had to pull back, spot where you going to go, then pull back and in and fire blindly. When you caught the hold, I think you were supposed to palm the round volume to control the swing, but it was very strange indeed. It took me 3 tries to stick the dyno and the last moves were extremely easy compared to what you had just done.

The 5th problem wasn´t super hard but really tricky. The first move looked painfully easy to read with a hard move up with your right hand, but when you got on the problem, it seemed impossible to go up with your right hand. Turns out, I always went up with my left and then had to match it by palming the other side of the hold. The 5th problem was mostly just figuring out how to get on top of an enourmous red feature. On my first try, I made it just before the zone and tried to jump to it. I barn doored really hard and almost stuck the zone but still fell. On my second try, I came at the zone hold from underneath instead of the right and send the problem. In total, I sent all 5 problems with a total of 10 tries. I was pretty sure it would be enough for semi finals and I was right. In my group, you had to do at least 4 problems in 5 tries, which meant you had to flash at least 3 problems if you could only complete 4 of them.

Semi finals was the next day. Fron qualifyers, they took the top 10 climbers in both groups to have 20 men and 20 women in semi finals. I woke up with my right tricep really sore. I spent the whole time during my warmup just massaging my arm trying to make it feel better. I figured with all the adreneline I´d have while competing, I wouldn´t even feel it. Semi finals is made up of 4 problems with 6 minutes climbing and resting time. When I came out, I felt pretty excited. The first problem was another slab, this time on the right side of the competition wall. Turns out, it wasn´t very hard and most of the competitors flashed it. The second problem looked much harder. The start had pretty much no feet for a few moves. On my first try, I spent so long trying to figure out where my feet were supposed to go for the first 3 moves.

Turns out, you just paste your feet on the wall and campus. I screwed around too long and unfortunately fell going for the bonus. On my second try however, I just campused the first 2 moves and sent the problem on that try. The 3rd problem was absolutely ridiculous. Just matching the second hold felt impossible. I spent 6 minutes doing 2 moves of climbing and on my last try I almost stuck the 3rd hold, which was the zone. I figured if I struggled so hard on this problem, it was surely not going to get done. The 4th problem was also really hard. The first two moves were really strange, having to perch on your left foot and grab a pinchy undercling and then fire your right hand into almost the same hold on the overhand. From there, you just set up and dynoed up and left over the lip. There were two holds about a foot apart just over the lip. While I was trying the problem, it felt so close every time I jumped. I must have tried the problem about 7 times and got to the jump 5 of those times. The jump was just too hard. I finished the round having only done 2 problems in 3 tries and not even getting the zone for problem 3 or 4.

After talking with Daniel Woods about the problems, he too had only done 2 of the problems but got the zone on all of them. Sadly, he took 3 tries to do problem 2 which put me just ahead of him by one attempt. Even more heart breaking was at the end of the round when I concluded that you had to flash 2 problems in make finals. Because of the way they divided the competitors for qualifyers, they aren´t allowed to do a countback. Gabrielle Moroni made finals by just flashing the first two finals and not getting zone on 3 and 4 either. That means that I missed finals by a try… If I had flashed the second problem intead of doing it second go, I would´ve made finals again… Oh well, maybe next time. After semi finals, I finished in 9th place. 7th place went to David Lama who also missed finals by a fall and 8th placed went to Cédric Lachat also in the same boat. Just after me in 10th place was Daniel Woods and in 11th place was Jorg Verhoeven.

Finals were of course awesome to watch. The biggest problem was that they didn´t have enough chairs and it was really hard to see. Another fun fact was that of the 6 guys who made finals, they all came from group B in qualifyers, which I was also in. In finals were Killian Fischhuber, Gabriele Moroni, Adam Ondra, Lucas Preti, Mykhaylo Shalagin and Guillaume Glairon-Mondet. The 6 finalist for women were Akiyo Noguchi, Anna Stohr, Yulia Abrabmchuk, Maud Ansade, Natalija Gros, Anna Galliamove and Angelica Lind. Because two women tied for 6th place in semis, they took 7 women to finals. Full results can be found on the IFSC Website. Finals were fun to watch but for the men, it turned out the it came down to the first two problems. No one did problem 3 and 4 and Killian won the competition. The women put on quite a different show. Akiyo from Japana and Anna from Austria had tied in semi finals for 6th place and was the results of 7 people in finals. During the finals, they both managed to flash all 4 problems which meant a superfinal. After tweaking mens problem 2, they both came out and previewed then climbed individually. Akiyo went first and flashed the problem, Anna was second and flashed it as well. The cheers from the crowd were crazy and it turns out that according to IFSC rules, if they both flash the superfinal, they just tie… It kind of sucks that they didn´t go to a super superfinal but it was still pretty awesome to watch.

After the comp was over, there was a big afterparty. They had a live band which played a lot of really funny songs. They start with Umbrella by Rihanna which they sung terribly. After that first song, they were a lot better. After a few hours, the party moved to a more Disco part of the venue which played really good music. The party ended at about 3am with the police trying to push everyone outside

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TDB Regionals

I just back from the Tour De Bloc regionals in Calgary. The competition was held at the Climbing Climbing Centre and it was a one day event. There was an on going blog as well as a live stream for finals.

During qualifyers, something really strange happened. Since Calgary is a very very dry city, there was no humidity. That mixed with most of the new holds that the gym had gotton for the competition made all of the competitors hands super sore after climbing for just a few hours. The competition was scramble format for qualifyers and zone format for finals. In the qualifyers, they took top 7 boulders. I found that after I had warmed up, done a few easier problems then done a few hard ones, the skin on my fingers was already super sore. It felt like I had already been climbing for 4+ hours. It was quite an effort to finish my last 2 problems and I did another 2 after I had 7 problems just to bump up my score. After qualifyers, I had qualified first just in front of Terry Paholek. I decided during our break time that I’d have to take some advil. My hands had swollen so much that it hurt just to wash them.

There was a big break in between qualifyers and finals, about 6 hours. While I was in isolation, I took a couple advil to make my hands swell down and numb the pain a bit. If you look on their website, they build two free floating walls for finals. They were pretty cool, they were just two free standing walls attached with ropes and wires to the ceiling.

For finals, they had 5 problems. Since I had qualified first, I was the last one out of iso. I was nervous leaving isolation but also excited. The last competition I was in was the Tour De Bloc in Kelowna just after my concussion. I wanted to get this competition in before I went to Europe to compete in World Cups. The First Boulder in finals was hard, it went up a little corner, then across a perfectly vertical wall. The last move was a dead point into a brand new circular sloper. The second problem was on the new feature. I thought it would swing around a bit more than it did but the features barely moved. It was cool transferring between 3 different free standing features and the problem was a bit easier than the first so I still flashed it.

The third problem was probably the hardest one in finals. After a few hard moves, you took a hold at the top of a feature and jumped for the final hold. The last hold wasn’t a jug but not quite a bad sloper. It was a pinch, but good enough to hold it with one hand. The move was off a little sloper on the top of a feature and you had to jump up and right to the last hold. For me, I thought I could only hit it with one hand so thats what I tried. I threw and grabbed it with one hand. As soon as I grabbed it, I thought I would fall for sure. I still tried as hard as I could and I miraculously controlled the outswing. On the first inswing, I tried to grab another hold to get my feet on but couldn’t grab anything. The second outswing was almost as hard as the first and hanging form one hand is hard for more than a second. On my second inswing, I felt my body start to turn around, so I went with it, twisted my body enough to match the final jug. From the cheer of the crowd, I was pretty sure no one had done the problem before me. Problem 4 looked nice as well, pretty straight forward sequence on what look to be pretty bad crimps. The problem went almost excatly how I had planned up till the last move. The final jug was about an inch below the top of the wall which was out. When I went to deadpoint to it, my fingers hit the top of the wall for a split second which made them unable to latch on to the final hold. I fell for the first time in finals from the top of the wall… I rested for a couple of minutes and sent the problem second try. After I had done the first 4 boulders, I knew I had won the competition. The last problem was also one of the easier ones. Simon Villenueve had put together 6 blocks. They stuck out of the wall about a foot each and were perfectly square. He put them up on the wall to make a nice sequence of moves. Although it wasn’t the hardest problems in finals, it was definately the coolests looking and it was awesome to climb on.

After finals was over, Vikki Weldon had won for the women and I had won for men. Second place went to Terry Paholek and Elise Sethna and third place went to Dan Archambault and Megan Cesarone.

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Competition Warm-up

Many people have asked me how I warm up for competitions so I thought I’d write about my warm ups. Usually I take between 45 minutes and 75 minutes to warm up really well. Sometimes, during a competition, I might only have 30 minutes to warm up and you just have to tweak your rests and difficulty of moves. Another thing is, sometimes the isolation zones are just terrible at some gyms so I’ve actually learned how to do most of my warm up just sitting around on the ground. Obviously, I only use this technique if the climbing walls are really bad for warming up on. A pretty good example of this would be at North American Championships. During finals isolation, there was no overhanging walls to warm up on. Instead, I try to get pumped by just opening and closing my hands above my head. This gets you pumped and your fingers warmed up without actually touching holds. After you’ve done this, you also have to go and get on your hard moves before you go out. My 75 minute warm up starts with 5 minutes of cardio. You can do anything, jump up and down, go for a run, jump rope, anything to get your heart going. For the first 10-15 minutes, if your feet are cold just wear your street shoes, if not put on your climbing shoes, do easy moves on big holds. I’m usually just trying to get the blood pumping through my arms so when I go and try harder moves, they feel easier. After you feel a bit warmed up, get your climbing shoes on and do 40+ moves on the climbing wall. You can change the difficulty of the movement but they shouldn’t be really hard yet. I do this on usually pretty big holds and I make it long so I can get a bit pumped. If there’s a really hard section in the warm up wall, don’t be afraid to just jumped down and skip that section. It doesn’t matter how hard you’re climbing in isolation, it’s all about the competition route or boulder problems. (As a side note, my warm ups for climbing and bouldering competitions are extremely similar. The difference between them is for lead warmups, I do more resistance warming up and for bouldering, I’ll do 5-7 hard move boulder problems before I go out.) Getting back to the warm up, after those 40+ moves, I stretch out for about 15 minutes and stretch my arms. Usually after that, I’m feeling really good, I still have 30-35 minutes before I go out so I start doing really hard moves. I’ll start by making a boulder problem of 10 or so moves but I’m pretty sure I can do. Usually they’ll have dynamic moves in them and trying to use all sorts of different holds. Also, I try to touch every single hold I’ve never seen before while I’m in iso. You never know when one may pop up in a really har spot on your climb. When I’m competing in Europe, it’s usually every hold, which makes route sequencing a bit harder… a After I make a few hard boulder problems, I always finish with a really hard boulder problem. Usually I’ll fall, but sometimes I even surprise myself and do it. The reason I make a really really hard boulder problem is because if you’ve tried harder moves in your warp up than in the competition, the competition boulders will feel much easier. I usually rest for at least 10 minutes before I’m supposed to go out to climb to stretch out my arms again. Before I go out, I’m completely de-pumped and I’m already psyched to climb new moves. It doesn’t matter if I’m about to climb a route, or a boulders, every single time before I get on the wall, I chalk up, wipe the chalk off on my pants, chalk up again, swing my arms back and forth a couple times, then I get on the wall. I’m not sure why I do this but I always do. I swing my arms back and forth to release the nervousnous in my body and I always take a few deep breaths. I get on every boulder problem on route thinking that if I’m lucky, I’ll top it out. You have to have this mentality when you’re competing. If you think that you’re going to fall half way up, you probably will. Competing is 80% mental, maybe more.

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