Members of the rock climbing team are looking to crush the comp this weekend. They’ve been training on jugs on the overhang, and can figure out the beta for any crux, whether on crimps, slopers, or balancy smears. They hope to send enough sport routes and boulder problems before they pump out or destroy their pads.
In other words, the Columbia rock climbing team is gearing up for regionals.
They’ll be competing in Halfmoon, N.Y., this weekend as a part of the Collegiate Climbing Series, along with fellow climbers from Yale, Princeton, and eight other schools.
The team, now in its second year, is sitting in fourth place in this season’s standings, but hopes to move up in the standings on Saturday.
“We were holding our own at third for a while, but now we’re in fourth, but I think we can take it back,” Ren Short, BC ’16, said, adding that the team’s president, Melanie Daulton, GS ’14, received the highest women’s individual score at the last competition.
Columbia usually brings 12 climbers to each competition, but anyone on the team is eligible to participate in regionals. The top three competitors for men and women count toward the team’s overall score.
This weekend’s indoor competition will consist of four hours of bouldering—climbing without ropes on shorter routes—and rope climbing. The scores from the climbers’ top three boulder problems and top two rope climbs will count toward their total score. Indoor rock climbing competitions are often more intensive than climbing outdoors, where climbers can spend time setting up equipment and take intermediary breaks.
“It’s really about strategizing for these comps because you have to do bouldering and rope climbing in the same comp,” Daulton said. “Rope climbs require a lot of endurance. Boulder comp requires a lot of strength and power, so you have to sort of manage your time to try to get your best endurance climbs and your best power climbs in.”
The boulder problems are marked by pieces of colored tape, each signifying a different level of difficulty. Daulton says she will be focusing on choosing harder boulder problems to try to get ahead in the competition.
“You need to have a lot of technical ability and you have to be able to look at a climb and understand how it works,” Short said. “There’s a mental game to it all. So besides just the climbing part, you also need to know when you need to space out your climbs.”
Daulton also emphasized the diversity of skills required as one of the more challenging aspects of the competition.
“These kind of comps really test that you’re a well-rounded climber because you have to be able to read the routes,” Daulton said. “You get more points if you get them your first try, so you really want to ‘flash it,’ which is getting a first try.”
Colin Raffel, a junior in the electrical engineering doctorate program at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has used his experience to formulate an approach to the challenge.
“One thing I found out pretty quickly doing these competitions is usually when you are just climbing at whatever setting, you work really hard on specifically one problem over and over again,” Raffel said. “But at competitions, it’s more important to actually finish problems, so generally my strategy has been to pick problems I know I can do and then climb them.”
Though the sport is mentally and physically intensive, the mood of the competition is somewhat relaxed due to the scoring methods. There are no judges—instead, the competitor marks his or her own scorecard, while two other climbers observe and sign off on the result.
“There’s that competitive energy at these climbs where everyone’s egging each other on to get it, but the nice thing is it’s not hostile,” Short said. “We work kind of on an honor system, so that’s the nice thing about it—it’s a healthy social environment. You can be really intensive and hard on yourself trying to climb, but at the same time, everybody around you is having fun.”
Through these competitions, Columbia is helping drum up support for collegiate rock climbing, an up-and-coming sport.
“It’s a big time for climbing because they’re trying to get into the Olympics, and once they do that, collegiate climbing will matter a lot more,” Daulton said. “So it’s an exciting time for climbing, and it’s cool that we’re helping establish the sport.”
The action starts this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Edge in Halfmoon, N.Y.