For the past 4 years I have been very focused on competition climbing. Competing with the GB team gave me goals, support and motivation and I have worked harder and harder each year to match level of my international friends and to be able to climb the inspiring competition routes and earn a good ranking. This year though I let that slip; university consumed me, demotivation, stress and depression has ensued.
When the team selection came round in March I had barely done any climbing for months and I was very dubious about how I could climb. Amazingly I turned on the old competition machine and fired off all 5 routes qualifying me for the team and the first international events. Only Tara and myself successfully achieved all of our selection routes and the management was very happy with my performance! I put it down to having a high level of fitness from last years training and suiting the style of routes. I did really enjoy myself and left full of motivation to train again and keep up my fitness. Unfortunately after a week back under workload and a sudden drop in performance I had all but stopped climbing again.
This weekend has been the first international of my last year in junior competition and I felt mild trepidation, amusement and excitement. Although I have not been training at all since those trials, I have found the old motivation hidden away and unlocked the container in the last month. This has been a slow process of getting out to some great crags, setting on the circuit board at the Depot and, in the short periods I have been at home, setting and climbing on the good old circuit board in the barn.
The whole family headed up to Ratho for the first European Youth Cup. It was a particularly special trip as Flo, my sister, was joining me for her first international, representing Great Britain for the first time. The nerves that over the years I have defeated were now consuming my sister. It is funny looking back and remembering how much pressure you are put under. I felt completely calm and open minded about how well I would do. This was party due to having done my last exam that afternoon and looking forward to the summer ahead.
Flo in full flow
Mind control is the biggest obstacle for competing, every hold further you get counts and reaching the top section is crucial to doing well. However if you are conscious of this you have little hope of climbing well and a very high chance of making errors. Your field of vision is crucial, too broad and you likely to climb inefficiently, missing holds, anxiety filling you as the start is tiring you out before you are anywhere near the deciding final section, inevitably you run out of energy, doomed by over gripping or embarking on the wrong sequence.
The opposite is just as likely to keep you down the rankings, with a narrow field of vision you over think each move climbing so slow your are likely to be irreversibly tired after the starting sequence with nothing in the tank for the only harder climbing that ensues.
As I am brilliant at doing, I was pulled out of the 17 climbers in my category to climb first. I am sure this has occurred a disproportionate amount of times for me and I was feeling deja vu from last years Edinburgh cup. I fortunately love onsight climbing and find less pressure on myself than when aware of how everybody else has found it. The only downside is, as with last year, a mistake is more likely.
I was fortunate the first route was a good hold - big move classic of the Ratho main wall. The sequence was not the challenge it was just to keep on going. Every hold I got was a mini jug and although I had to rest a lot I managed to make it all the way through the roof up to the last 4 moves passed the lip. I was sure many people would top the route as I was not expecting to still be fit at all. However apart from the obvious best (I think all of whom have climbed 8c outdoors) who did top with ease many people pumped out much lower. This put me in good stead for the next route.
The Youth A category, although 1-2 years younger than the juniors is nearly always a stronger group. They started on our second route and it was obvious they were struggling from the start. The set of holds were big and allover, the route meandered through the old competition wall tackling the steepest terrain through 2 roofs. With some useful beta from Gaz the setter I pushed through the first difficulties efficiently and was able to push on, falling 2 thirds of the way up. Amazingly this secured a 7th place in the final! I was very psyched with this news not having made a single final last year. It was lucky this more complex harder route was not the one I was put against first.
I love climbing in finals, the style of final routes the isolation, the psyching up and then the climbing as far as you can. You know that from the start the whole route will be desperate so you are going to have to give it everything from the word go. I always climbing better, more focused, more determined. It was great to be in Isolation with so many other Brits and all went to plan in warming up.
Team assesment day at Kendal
The route was another classic final route on positive holds but big moves, I tricky long deadpoint into a pocket threw quite a few people. I managed to stick it cleanly after making careful observation of the distances in the 6min viewing time. The moves above were also very tricky and ended a few more attempts by the other finalists. I was pleased to find out I was the only one to climb that section exactly as the route setter had planned it. I unfortunately missed a hidden heel hook going into the roof that lost lots of energy and I fell throwing into what was a huge rest before the final roof section.
I was amazed and really pleased to finish in 5th place just bellow the top dogs of my category and I have gained confidence in my climbing and mind control. I have also proved to myself just how hard I worked last year in training and I do not feel I have wasted a year this year just gained more outdoors experience and reminded myself why I love climbing so much. I hope I can now go from strength to strength this summer. Dad, myself and Flo are off to Moscow on Tuesday for the second EYC, the journey will be an achievement in itself! I will keep you updated on how it goes.
A big shout out to Ed Hammer who came all the way up to support the team and share his competition experience. It was really useful to have someone with the knowledge of competition routine there to aid us in our warm up and route reading, he also had a great knowledge of the holds on our second route having climbed on them a lot at the Works.
The whole team put in a brilliant effort in and 6 people through to the final is our best every qualifying number. Tara got a brilliant 4th place and the other finalists also did really well. William Bosi.. Alex Waterhouse came an amazing 11th place just missing out the finals but not something to worry about in your first international. I also saw Jim pope put an amazing effort in on his second qualifier making it right to the top section. Great work everybody lets all keep pushing to climb better, harder and further.