There are various different types and levels of competitions. Here is a brief run down of the wide range of options available.
For some people, climbing has always been a competitive sport, but that competitiveness has mostly been characterised as between the climber and the climb. Modern competition climbing pits climber against climber in order to find a winner; although competition climbing has, so far, retained much of the co-operative good natured sportsmanship of the traditional climbing world.
Types of climbing competitions
There are a number of different types and styles of climbing competitions, ranging from a local bouldering league to the verified heights of the World Championships. Competitions come in 3 basic types: lead climbing, bouldering and speed climbing with many variations and combinations.
There are numerous ‘local’ competitions all over the UK, primarily climbing wall based leading leagues, although some walls do run leading competitions as well. Your average local bouldering league would typically consist of around 20-25 problems, with 3 attempts on each problem with a self scoring system. Most local leagues tend to be run over the winter season and are frequently on Friday nights. Costs are normally around the same price as entry to the wall with maybe a small extra charge.
The new BMC Leading Ladder falls into the category of a regional competition although like many regional competitions it will have a National Final.
Other important regional events are the perennial SIBL (which has been around for about 12 years now) and of course the BMC Youth Climbing Series.
BMC Youth Climbing Series
The BMC Youth Climbing Series is a series of 34 events spread over numerous walls in England, Scotland & Wales. The competition involves both roped climbing (top roping for the 2 younger age categories, leading for the eldest) and bouldering. The age categories are 7-10, 10-13 and 14-16. Climbers attempt to qualify for the British Final by attending at least 2 regional rounds in the BMC Area in which they live. The system in Wales is slightly different, 2 rounds in the North and 2 in the South and then a Welsh final to decide who will represent Wales at the British Final. In Scotland the series is run by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and is called the MC of S Youth Climbing Series.
This is a BIG competition. In an average year there are between 400-500 climbers at the regional rounds and nearly 200 at the British Final from all over England, Wales and Scotland.
For more information about the BMC Youth Climbing Series please click here.
There are 2 sorts of national events, the bigger ‘private’ competitions and the main national championships. The big private events attract climbers from all over the country – generally because of decent prize money. Events such as the Boulder Bash (Craggy Island), the Plywood Masters (BoulderUK), the Capital Climbing Festival or the 2 new events at the Westway, the Youth Indoor Bouldering Championships and the Youth Indoor Bouldering Championships. There are a few other big events that aren’t open to the general public e.g. the BUSA Bouldering Comp (the biggest comp in the UK??) and the Inter Services Championships.
For more information about the British Lead Climbing Championships click here.
For more information about the British Bouldering Championships click here.
International competitions are overseen by the International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC). To enter official international competitions a national federation, like the BMC, must be a member of the IFSC. The BMC is an IFSC member.
International events tend to come in 2 sizes, one off Masters events and the ‘formal’ events that lead to World or Continental rankings.
Masters events have been around a long time, the Arco Rockmaster is the granddaddy of them all and was started in 1986 and has continually tried new formats – this is one of the great things about Masters, you don’t have to stick to a rigid set of rules. Britain’s first international masters – the Foundry International Bouldering Open (FIBO) was started purely to test out rules for international bouldering competitions and what was developed at the FIBO forms the basis of the current rules.
Buts it’s the World Cups and various Championships that are the Blue Ribbon events.
These events are:
World Cups – an annual series of events around the world where the climbers gain ranking points to decide who is the overall champion. Normally there are about 6-8 Boulder World Cups, 7-10 Leading World Cups and 3-6 Speed World Cups. Sometimes an event will have more than one discipline. Each World Cup event has quarter final, a semi final and a final
World Championships (Senior) – THE biggie. A single event every day years that has all three disciplines. Due to the large turnout at the World’s there is often an extra preliminary round.
World Championships (Youth) – second only to the Senior World’s in prestige this is the biggest event in terms of participants with upwards of 400 climbers being a regular occurrence. This is a genuinely global event with the championships being held in China (2005), Ecuador (2007) and Australia (2008). The event always consists of lead climbing and speed climbing.
Continental Championships – the IFSC structure allows for the various continents to have their own Councils and run their own Continental Championships. Some of these (e.g. Europe) are held every two years, some (e.g. Asia) are held annually. Normally each Continental Championships will have all 3 disciplines.
Continental Youth Championships – a bit of a mixed bag, some are one-off events, other are a series of events (e.g. Europe with it’s European Youth Series of leading & speed events)