Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Event Report: 36 Whiskeys 2014 First Round

On Sunday, June 1st, after a long day of cycling and uh, drinking, Charles and Jordan and I headed to Sapporo for the first 36 Whiskeys competition of the year at Whippersnapper. Writing this makes me realize that I haven't ever posted about Whippersnapper, which I'll have to do some time. For now, say that Whippersnapper is one of several gyms in Sapporo, and is my favorite. That's the storefront and the manager, above. Several times a year, they hold climbing events called 36 Whiskeys. This is their story.

This event was the biggest yet, with more than 70 climbers registered. Whippersnapper isn't a big place, so this can get a little crowded, but the event was well-managed and ran smoothly.

Climbers were split into two groups, creatively named A Group and B Group. A Group had an hour and a half to climb, followed right away by B Group. Then they repeated, so that each group had three total hours, split in half. This was, I think, a great way to run the competition. It allowed a huge number of climbers to compete, and to have a long rest midway through; I was gassed by the end of the first round, but got my second wind watching the other climbers and refueling during my down time.

Same overhang as before, from the other side

As for the competition itself, it worked like this. 36 problems were set on the wall, ranging from very easy yellow-tape problems to ball-crushing black problems. In theory, the hardest problems were around 1-2 dan, or V8-V9.

These volumes were new to the wall, and added a lot (of suffering)

In their two 1.5 hour sessions, each climber could climb whatever problem they wished, as many times as they wanted- but only one climber at a time on each of the four sections of the wall. Average waiting time to get back on the wall was only around three or four minutes, but knowing that you couldn't just hop back on the problem if you fell did add some pressure. That, and the other climbers watching and cheering.

Each climber had a card, and would get a mark for any problem they successfully climbed. Different difficulties were worth different points, but this really only mattered for the top-tier climbers gunning for a place in the final round at the end of the year; mortals like me just set personal goals and try to climb hard.

It's me!

In the first half of the competition, I managed all of the pink problems, which were pegged at 7-6kyu, which is maybe V2. I tried each of the problems of the next grade up, and while I didn't send any of them I was able to decide which ones to attack in my second half. That's one of them, up above.

Charles tries the technical volume problem

In my second half, I had two 6kyu problems picked out that I thought I had a good chance of sending. One was a slightly overhanging technical problem on a number of volumes, with bad holds and tricky feet, and the other was a fairly straightforward problem with a blobby, difficult-to-match hold in the center that I had trouble surpassing. I was able to get the first of the two on my first shot after the break; success! And the power of rest! I'm usually far too impatient to take long rests during a session, but this enforced break showed me the real value of getting refocused.

Thanks for the pic, Charles!

The second of the two problems I'd picked out was tougher to crack. That's me flogging away at it above. The crux was moving past the hold I'm matched on and getting to a slopey pinch that doesn't offer much relief. I worked through this position enough times to end up with a pretty gnarly abrasion on my left forearm where it rubbed against the hold. No good, though; I wasn't able to get the send, and I felt my strength going on each try. I felt I gave it a good effort, though, and I'm glad I stuck with it to the end.

In addition to getting to climb on some sweet problems in an intense environment, the competition also allowed us to watch some real talented climbers push themselves hard. The climbers here may not be world-class, but this competition does draw the best athletes from in and around Sapporo and was really inspiring. At the top level, I think we saw four or five total sends of black-tape problems, with a round of applause every time it happened.

In any case, a good time was had by all. I wish I had taken the opportunity to take more pictures, but I was too focused on climbing! Charles and Jordan kindly took some shots of me climbing; I wish I had returned the favor.

Looking forward to next time, and to getting out on some real boulders and a sport crag this weekend! Also look forward to an update on the home wall soon. Until then!

(all pictures courtesy of Whippersnapper Gym except where noted)

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