ROCfest 2014

So, there I am happily getting on with some work, minding my own business, when along comes Col and asks if I would be up for competing at ROCfest 2014 as part of the [uber-awesome] Alpkit Team. Mild panic may have ensued as I find myself replying ‘welllll, yeah sure,’.

I love climbing, I love the atmosphere of competitions, (and I adore winning). But it had been so long since I had entered a major competition and much had happened in that time that my enthusiasm was mixed with a little apprehension. I was aware that I was not quite at the standard I would wish to be for such a comp. Nevertheless, I was fully up for giving it a go.

The day of the comp began with a gruesome 6am start (why oh why climbing comps can’t start mid afternoon I don’t know) and we arrived with good time before it all kicked off.

I took the opportunity to check out the problems before it got too busy. I was pleasantly surprised to see many easy climbs. Unfortunately, this did not last long when I realised that these were in fact kids climbs and mine were the gnarly ones hiding at the back of the centre.

As competitors and spectators began to arrive, it was great catching up with old friends. Many of whom I had not seen fro 5 years or so. Seeing each of them brought back fabulous memories of British Team trips, international comps, after parties and so on. (I couldn’t even begin to detail some of those stories though!)

For some of them, like myself, the focus of their lives had drifted away from climbing with work, study, children- but they were still climbing fantastically! Others, however, have simply got stronger and to see their improvement is immense. They were always good, but watching them climb now, with such ease and finesse- it is climbing in it’s purest most artistic form.

11.00 am. The comp suddenly started, almost out of nowhere. I suddenly realised that I really should have spent the previous 40 mins warming up! It appeared that my competition technique was somewhat rusty.

We sourced a few of the easier climbs to start which involved battling through crowds and queuing for some time. Retrospectively, I wasted too much time trying to avoid busy climbs. My focus and mental state was not in an ideal competing state. I was psyched out, feeling the pressure and disliking the crowds.

After about an hour, I began to chill out. I had dropped a few climbs that I possibly should have done and began to accept that it was not possible at this time for me to rank where I wanted to and that was okay. ROCfest would be a great analytical experience for me, allowing me to see how far off I am from where I want to be.

Having calmed down and caffeined up, I felt that I was climbing better. The problems were all very well set; challenging, but you could comprehend how to complete them and when I couldn’t finish one. it was clear where my weaknesses were which was really useful. My compliments to the route setters, I couldn’t fault the climbs in any way.

After the comp had finished there was still a real buzz in the air- everyone was chatting and enjoying the food and beer! The slack lining sounded fun and attracted the entire crowd, but I didn’t personally see much as having now regained my psyche, I was still climbing.

The finals were super hyped up (in a good way). Rockover Climbing really pulled out the stops to keep the audience involved and alert for the full 3 hours! The lighting rig and music worked well. The climbing, most notably in the adult final, was remarkable and totally inspiring. Again, the routes were set well and created good visual interest with leaps, crimps and knee bars for variety.

All in all, it was a great competition, worth the trip for competitor or spectator and I hope to compete again next year. Also, I now know what I need to train to place higher (came around 16th this year) next year! And just perhaps, I may even check out some other big comps in the meantime!

By Ashleigh Naysmith