This year, the Scottish tooling series was scaled up to a national level with five events spanning the country between the beacon climbing centre in north wales and the ice factor in Kinlochleven. With most events taking place on consecutive weekends, (with one off, where I did the OMM mountain marathon!!), the past two months have been a complete whirlwind of travelling (over 3500 miles in total!), sleeping on floors, meeting loads of very inspiring people, and of course LOADS of climbing! Here is a brief rundown on how each of the rounds went.
Round 1: Beacon, Wales
This was a brilliant event as part of the Beacon Climbing Centre’s 20th Birthday celebration weekend. It was a busy day with loads going on at the centre – I even managed to enter (and I think win!) a very esoteric boulder comp in between the qualifiers and the finals! The qualifiers were fun, and I managed to flash them all. Our final climbed up one of the steeper walls, with a difficult lock-off move right at the beginning. I got past this and about ¾ of the way up the wall before pinging off a sketchy hold. Unfortunately neither of the other female finalists had managed the powerful move at the beginning and so it was a less interesting final, but I was of course happy to take my first place! In the mens final, it was a closely fought battle between Harry Holmes and Scott Grosdanoff. At this point, there was not a routine time limit for finals. Harry managed to spend about 30 minutes hanging around on the men’s final, and since then they have implemented a 6 minute time rule!! But it was worth it, as it won him the men’s title and he even got further than Tim Emmet and Will Gadd when they had a go at the route before their evening lecture!
Getting stuck into the Beacon competition. Photo Ray Wood
Round 2: Ice Factor, Kinlochleven
This event also had the title of “Scottish Mixed Masters” and was the busiest event with somewhere in the region of 60 competitors. I almost didn’t make it to this event! Driving over Rannoch Moor, I had a car accident and ended up rolling the car several times. Remarkably, I was completely unscathed and after a number of phonecalls to police/insurance/recovery, I ended up getting a lift to the competition by a friendly policeman! I was 3 hours late, but with adrenaline coursing through my veins I worked my way through all the qualifiers, just jumping onto whichever one happened to be free next. I made it to the finals, which was quite a technical route with lots of sketchy holds, but nothing too tiring or powerful. It began with a short traverse, and to my total horror I fell of the third hold! Forutnately at this comp they had adopted the “false start” rule, and we were allowed another go If we fell of before the first clip. So, take-two, and I was very nervous using the hold I had previously slipped off! With a new sequence, I managed to make it past and went on to be the only competitor to top the route, and so winning the competition.
Round 3: Glasgow Climbing Centre
At this comp I climbed with Emma Powell, who I find incredibly inspiring. At 13 she is a lot smaller than all of the adult competitiors, but she somehow manages to make all the big moves and has an impressive amount of perseverance, trying a move over and over until she finally gets it – which invetiably she does! Most of the qulifiers were full length routes so we were all quite tired going into the finals. I could see there was a difficult looking move at 2/3 height and thought it might be a stopper move for us all. I climbed as quickly as I could incase it came down to time, which it did. Me, Emma and Fiona Murry all got to the same move, but I took 1st place on timing.
Round 4: Rope Race, Manchester
I found this comp the most enjoyable because the qualifying routes were interesting and diverse, with all the setting done by Andy Turner and Alan?? This made for a thouroughly good workout and also great experience at trying competition style moves. I qualified for the final in first place, but unfortunately climbed far too slowly in the finals. I didn’t hear my 1 minute warning being called, and found myself timed-out long before I was tired. It was still enough for first place, but I was sad not to get to try the rest of the route!
Rope Race, Manchester. Photo by Alan Ellison
Round 5 (Finals): Leeds Wall
Before we knew it, the final round was upon us! It was the first tooling competition that the Leeds wall had organised, and I think they did a very good job at creating an interesting mix of routes. There were a lot of hanging logs in this competition. Striking wood has always been a rather big weakness of mine, and it seems that these logs were particularly difficult! I employed a lot of determination on one particular qualifier, where I must have hung on for about 15 minutes repeatedly trying to strike the log; these efforts paid off and I managed to flash all twelve of the qualifiers. Out final route had 2 hanging logs right near the top. The route looked easy up until there, so I was quite unsure how I would get on if these logs were going to be what split us! However, I think I got lucky with my axe swings (or maybe I just finally learned how to do it properly?!) and was absolutely over the moon to top my route – clipping the lower-off with about 2 seconds to spare before I timed out. Scott G was climbing the men’s final next to me, and we topped out our routes almost together, which was a really cool way to end the event because we both took the series title.
A bonus competition: Petzl Dutch Tooling Competition
Myself and Harry decided to fly out to Holland to take part in a Dutch tooling comp, which was organised by Marianne van der Stein , who is a super strong climber and put together an awesome event. There was a great turnout with over 90 climbers, many of whom were competition sport climbers and relatively new to tooling, with a small foreign contingency. The competition took place on a 30m high concrete structure in the shape of the Matterhorn! Both myself and Harry qualified for the finals, which took place in the dark, climbing by headtorch. The atmosphere was incredible, with big crowds, loud music and some enthusiastic commentary by Marianne (athough all in dutch so I had no idea what she was saying!). I managed to get most of the way up my final route, to the top chain section where it joined in with the men’s final. I fig4’d most of the way up the chain, before having a shakeout and….dropping my axe!! Gutted – that was me called down – but it was enough to take first place!
I have just had three weeks off university, which provided a very well needed break. When I say “break”, obviously I mean a break from work, and the chance to do more climbing! I managed to climb for the first 13 consecutive days… it made me think about what I love most about climbing – the diversity! Those 13 days never felt “samey”. Speed ice-climbing and indoor tooling at the Ice Factor, winter climbing on Ben Nevis, a stamina session at Ratho, drytooling at “the Works” in the lake district, tooling on Harry’s home board, a bouldering competition in York……this was how the first few days went… there are just so many forms of climbing!
Climbing at the Works. Photo by Oliver Crudge
My current focus is the 4 world cup events which I am competing in between January and March. My university has been very supportive in organising time off for these competitions, although unfortunately I wasn’t able to get an extra week for Korea. It is quite a challenge to fit in training around medical studies (I am currently in a GP practice every day 8am-5pm , with coursework to do in the evening!) but where there is a will there is definitely a way!!! I have been managing to climb about 5 times a week, as well as running most days, and love the process of training and seeing the benefits. I am also excited about the prospect of doing lots more Scottish winter climbing later in the season! There is a lot to look forward to.