BMC leading ladder grand final 2008 report

Posted by Lucy Creamer on 31/03/2008
Women's 19-45yrs podium. Photo: Norman Gilman

Awesome walls Stockport was the venue; 29 March 2008 was the date; 32 competitors were the first ever Leading ladder finalists.

This event was the culmination of 17 events that took place around the country this winter and 46 people qualified through to the grand final.

On the day we had a healthy showing of 32 brave climbers who came to climb their hearts out. Some were first time competitors obviously nervous about their performances and some were experienced British team members eager to compete.

But before I report on the day I have some people I would like to thank.

· Dave Douglas and the Awesome Walls team for being so helpful and accommodating leading up to and during the event.
· SnoW+RoCK (Manchester) for providing the top 3 winners in each category with great prizes, also some extras for the prize raffle draw
· Lyon equipment/Beal for providing the all important ropes and harnesses
· Entre-prises for providing some fantastic competition holds
· Gaz Parry for providing an entertaining commentary throughout the day.
· The route setting team led by Percy Bishton and Steve McClure for setting high quality, interesting routes.
· ALL the volunteers who did their various jobs with enthusiasm and dedication throughout the day.
· A special mention to BMC vice president Rab Carrington for running with the concept of the leading ladder and making it a reality.
· And finally to all the competitors for supporting the BMC and British competition climbing by taking part in this first time event.

So, to the competition

All the competitors were ready to climb at 9.30am and were faced with their two qualifying routes. As the leading ladder final was working to BLCC rules, the route setters demonstrated the qualifiers. This is a pretty terrifying experience for route setters and hats off to them for doing it!

Some categories had higher numbers than others. Unfortunately, the female 46+ had a zero turn out and a lone Ashleigh Naysmith competed in the Female 16-18. As there were eight different categories overall, it was necessary from a logistical perspective to have certain categories competing on the same route. This certainly made it more interesting for the audience to see a decent number of people battling it out on the same route.

Due to how the quotas work in the rules all the categories were fighting it out for four places in the final. For some categories this meant they automatically went through to the final but for the others they had to battle it out in the qualifiers.

The junior girls12-15 is a very strong category and most of them cruised their qualifiers to gain their places in the final.
The men’s 19-45 had a tie for 4th place between Adam Jeewooth and Joe Wilson (both newcomers to comps), which meant five men competed in the final.
The men’s 46+ (probably the most competitive category of the lot, they’ve all been cranking for years and are still going strong), also had a tie for fourth which was great because this meant they all went through to the final.

So with the 26 people safely in the final there was a chance for the audience and the competitors to have a lunch break while the routes setters set to work taking down all the qualifiers and putting up the pre-set final routes. There is always an opportunity for the route setters to modify the finals if they feel the standards in the qualifiers were slightly different to what they expected. As with an invitational event like this, we didn’t know who was going to turn up so the route setters had to gauge the standards from a wide range of climbing abilities.

With the final routes up and after a stint in isolation, the final competitors came out for their six-minute observation, and then the climbing started at 3.10pm.

The 12-15 boys kicked off the finals where the top three places were closely contested. But Luke Tilley just pipped Tim Lloyd (Junior BBC champion ‘2007) to the top spot and came very close to topping out the route. Paul Williamson wasn’t at all far behind and gained himself third place.

Then out came the men’s 46+ finalists, with Alan Murray and Nick Colton (BMC’s own deputy CEO) lying in joint first after the qualifiers. Nerves were evident but this hard-core bunch were up for it. After 3 had gone with Ian Dunn giving an all out challenge for the top spot it was just Alan and Nick to go. Nick came out and climbed like a competition pro (he has a few vets titles under his belt). He didn’t mess around, just got on the route and tried to get to the top as quickly as possible, like the proverbial rat in a drainpipe! He got to the same highpoint as Luke Tilley, just two holds from the belay. With all to play for Alan had to really pull it out of the bag to win. Climbing in a very different style to Nick (sloth-like would be applicable), Alan’s progress up the wall was slow and considered. But on these routes speed is of the essence and the pump got the better of him as he fell off unable to reach either Ian or Nick’s highpoints.

The next route was an interesting arête and wall for all the female categories. First out were the 12-15’s. The high levels of this category cannot be underestimated; they had all flashed their qualifiers. This final route was a much harder test for them and did the route setters proud, as it split the field well. Kitty Wallace and Shauna Coxsey (BBC and BLCC 2007 champion) were the hot favourites and were both capable of topping out. But on the day rising star Shauna cruised to the top with Kitty very close behind flummoxed by a powerful finish.
Again, Rebecca Hall and Hannah Beresford climbed well and had an incredibly close battle for third and fourth which was just won by Rebecca (thanks to video playback)

Next was lone Ashleigh Naysmith, already the winner of her category but still able to battle it out on the route with the other females. Ashleigh climbed well but ran out of steam below the four juniors.

Then the 19-45’s came out. Lizzie Bowler had some useful past comp experience in BUSA and army events but Karen Whitehouse and Sarah Messenger were totally new to comps. Essentially these women were all new to BMC events and it was great to see new faces giving comps a go (after all that was the idea of the Leading Ladder series).
Again, the standards of these climbers were very evenly matched and it was incredibly close between Karen and Lizzie who were separated by only one hold with Karen just taking the lead. Sarah who had climbed well in the qualifiers moving into the finals in second place, ended up with an admirable third overall.

So to the last route, which was the scene of the some very interesting results. The youth male16-18 yrs, climbed first on a yellow route that seemed to have handholds that were pretending to be footholds. Very devious and obviously hard. Out came Pete Whittaker, who after his hard-core exploits on grit recently (putting up a new E9 7a) has obviously found some awesome form. Pete climbed very positively and used his great technique to hang in there on the sloping holds and made it to the top headwall to the audience’s delight but the route setters hadn’t disappointed and the inevitable ‘sting in the tail’ finally put an end to Pete’s fantastic effort.
British team member Tony Musslebrook also climbed in his strong style but although he came very close to Pete’s highpoint (one hold away), he just didn’t have enough to go those extra few moves to the belay. Andy Gravestock did well on this very hard final route and came a creditable third.

And finally it was the turn of the men’s 19-45 category, of course very tough to be in. They had also spent the longest in isolation so were raring to go. The five climbers came out and one by one seemed to be scuppered by the same move, a nasty small pocket. It wasn’t until Alan Cassidy came out that he managed to just get past this move and come out on the top. In very close joint second were Drew Haigh and Adam Watson. The difference really was infinitesimal, IE. Alan held the hold that the others had only managed to touch. That’s comps for you; if you can push that extra millimetre it can make the difference between winning and losing.

But the really interesting result is that Peter and Tony (men’s 16-18 yrs) would’ve beaten this bunch hands down, the youth are fighting back!

So that brought the competition to an end and all that was left was to present the Snow and Rock prizes to the victorious top 3. The winners all received hand made trophies that will be a great memento of the event and the second and third places will be receiving their trophies soon.

Gareth Parry led us through the prize giving, while Steve McClure presented the awards and a lucky handful of people won some prizes in the raffle at the end. Also, a special prize went to Rebecca Hall (girls 12 –15 yrs). This young lady showed such commitment to the leading ladder series that out of the total 17 rounds she attended an incredible 11!
Well done Rebecca.

All in all the BMC leading ladder grand final was a fantastic event, which was well attended and some great climbing was seen by all. Check out the photo gallery and full listing of the results.

The BMC is fully intending to run the series next year due to its success and we will be reviewing the format in the next week or so. We are happy to make some changes, as of course we understand that some of the criteria worked and some didn’t.

If you have any feedback or comments about this year’s series or final, we would certainly appreciate hearing about it.
Please email lucy@thebmc.co.uk with your ideas.

If you competed in this years leading ladder series and enjoyed the competitive experience, then the next competition on the BMC calendar is the British Lead Climbing Championships at the Blackpool Towers on 24-25 May 2008 (for more information about the BLCC go here). The format is the same as the leading ladder grand final and is open to all.

Thank you again for supporting the Leading Ladder series and we look forward to seeing you competing or watching, at the BLCC in Blackpool.



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