Friday, 21 October 2011

19.05 seconds. 20 holds. 24 moves. That’s all it takes

The British Speed Climbing Championships took place on 16th October 2011 at EICA, Ratho.
Rachel Carr, Junior Champion, reflects on her achievement. (Photo: Lukasz Warzecha Images)

The one question I’m always asked when I win a comp is, “how fast were you?” and before today I’d just smiled and said “it wasn’t a speed competition!” which, before today, it hadn’t been, because, before today, there hadn’t been a speed climbing competition that British climbers took part in.  This was the first official British Speed Climbing Championships (on an IFSC rated wall) and I decided to enter for fun. I’d been training it for about a month and had already got a fastest time of 24.38 seconds, but on the day it was a lot more stressful. It wasn’t just me and the wall, there were distractions, other people on the wall, pressure of getting the best time I can. It was harder than I’d ever expected.

No one had ever run through the layout of the comp so we had to be told how to do it. Taking it all in was difficult and it just made me even more nervous. The category was ‘Under 18 Girls’ so there were more people than I expected. First we had a practise run to warm up and get used to the moves. Then 2 qualifier attempts where you were climbing with someone else on the identical route next to you, but you weren’t racing them, just the clock. There were only 4 going through to the semis in my category and that’s when it gets really complicated. The fastest would race the slowest, and then the 2nd and 3rd fastest would race. Next is the Small Final, the 2 that lost the semis would race for third and then the Big Final would be the 2 fastest racing for first and that would decide it.

On my practise shot I took it slow so I wouldn’t get too tired. I was also trying to trick my competitor into thinking I was slow so they would subconsciously climb slower than usual. The first timed climb I really went for it, I managed 23 seconds which was faster than usual but I still found it too slow. On the second one I pushed twice as hard and lost 2 seconds off my time getting 21.2. I qualified in first. The competition was running fast so there wasn’t much time to rest between climbs and because I was fastest in the qualifiers I was climbing first against Flo. I climbed that just faster than her because I didn’t want to waste more energy than I had to and I won. I was in the final.

There was about 5 minutes before the final, I was up against Carmel. She and I had been 1 second apart with our best times and I knew what I needed to do to win. We both stood tied in at the bottom of the route facing the wall. I was going through the moves over and over again in my head. Every move had to be perfect, no slips, no wrong holds, perfect. I was breathing deeply, rubbing chalk onto my hands. The announcer began, “on your marks”. I stepped to the wall, placed my 2 hands on the holds, one foot on the first foot hold, the other placed on the sensor. I leant back ready to pounce, like a cheetah hunting. Now it was just seconds till the timer would begin. “Ready, attention” a loud ‘beep’ signalled my body to unleash. I moved precisely and as fast as possible up the wall. Pulling powerfully between moves and focusing all my energy on this one moment. The whole way up I could see Carmel out the corner of my eye, I think that’s what made me push even more. We were equal almost the whole way up, until I suddenly had a burst of energy and before I knew it I was there, at the top. I made the final leap and slapped the pad. I had done it, not only had I just won the under 18 Girls’ Speed Climbing Championship 2011, I had set a new British record. I was the fastest girl in Britain, with my fastest time ever.

19.05 seconds. 20 holds. 24 moves. That’s all it takes.

Written by Rachel Carr

Don't know what competitive speed climbing is all about?
Have a look at the highlights of the 2011 World Championships:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Deep Water Soloing In Malta

We’d made contact with the Malta Climbing Club before we left so the first climbing I did in Malta was in the Sliema Scout Hut. They had a small wall, and I mean small. Even though it couldn’t have been bigger than 5 metres up and 10 along, it was actually a decent wall. It wasn’t over hanging but the boulders were set well. They had a lot of easy ones but there were only about 3 hard ones. There were only actually 2 I couldn’t complete but those two were extremely hard.

The next climbing I did was Ghar Hasan; the first deep water solo climbing I’d ever done. It was an easy traverse to start with, and then it got extremely slimy which made it quite pumpy. There are 2 caves on the traverse. Once you start the second cave it gets hard, you have to do an awkward heel hook and everyone that was there fell off at that point.

Next we joined the Malta Climbing Club yacht trip to Comino where we tried some amazing deep water soloing. I started off with an easy traverse to warm up and then lead onto a 7b traverse. I managed to get far along it but then the holds got far too slimy and I jumped to a slopper and found out that it was terrible and slipped off. Then me and 3 of the guys climbed to the top which was 10m up and then we all jumped off: it gave me such an adrenalin rush and is my best memory of the trip.

Back on the boat and we headed to another area of deep water soloing where I tried a hard climb that started off on a rope ladder then made its way up a massive block/stalactite. I fell just under the roof because I got scared as I was almost 7 metres up and I still hadn’t fallen for real. I got a big round of applause from the rest of the group who had all been watching me.

On Tuesday evening we joined in the MCC club night at Wied Babu. I was tired so I only tried one 7a+. It was horrible a 5+ up until 2 hard moves which are reachy and then it’s just like walking until the end.

The next day I went to Red Wall near Blue Grotto where I was with my dad, Fabien (one of the guys I climbed with quite regularly on the trip) and Simon Alden, the president of the Malta Climbing Club. We all abseiled down to the wall then did a traverse to warm up. After that I watched Fabien do a 7b+ trad/sport climb. When he had put one friend in and was about to clip the first bolt the hold he was holding snapped off and the friend he put in snapped out, so he hit the ground. He was alright but the chunks or rock that came out turned out to be bigger than my head. He got back on and then managed to get to the top without harm. I decided not to follow so took an easier route to the top.

Wanting to do a few harder sport routes we headed to Ghar Lapsi on Thursday. Lots of caves set into the hillside. We tried 2 7b’s and I didn’t manage either of them as they were extremely tricky with hard moves. I had also previously split my index finger open and it was incredibly sore to climb on so I just came down after trying the first one a few times and then I finished the second one after falling of 4 times.

Friday, again with Fabien, and back to Ghar Hasan where we went round left this time to the other side of the wall. I managed a full vertical climb which was about 15m up but it was only about 6b. Then we did a traverse that lead to a climb which was also around 15m up and was also about 6b. Fabien then managed to do quite a hard one which went under an overhang then up a slab but I fell of on the lip of the roof after going up and down trying to find the holds for about 15 minutes.

My final day’s climbing was more Deep Water Soloing at the base of Wied Babu this time with the parents so grades had to be much easier. The cove we were in was on the Blue Grotto boat tour routes so we had boats of tourists popping by every few minutes. I don’t think they were expecting to see climbers and quite a lot of photographs were taken.

It was an overall good trip. Deep Water Soloing is exciting but you need to be aware when you fall as water can be hard if you land badly. I want to go back and do more routes, maybe when the weather is cooler. I made some good friends in the Malta Climbing Club and hope to return the favour if they ever come over to Scotland to climb.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Scottish Youth Climbing Championships- 28th May 2011

I went into the Scottish finals really psyched to compete as I have won this before and knew my competition very well. The top 5 climbers from each category in the MCofS Youth Climbing Series are invited along to take part, as are all Scottish GB team members. There is also an open category for 17-19 year olds.

After seeing our routes I was slightly less fired up but still ready and when I heard we were on boulders first I couldn’t wait to begin. I got on the first one and finished it without even feeling the holds properly. I did the same on the second. The third was a bit more difficult and I was on it first. I spent 5 minutes planning it out thoroughly.

When I got on I realised I had little to worry about, the holds were small and quite sloppy but they were my specialty. The only bit that I struggled on was getting my balance right as that was crucial for the sequence. I managed it on my first go and it turns out I was the only one to actually complete it. That got me really excited for the routes. I got on the first one and found it as easy as the boulders. I struggled more on the second route, although I really shouldn’t have. I got the sequence wrong and therefore fell off the route, but I still managed to get the highest up. I did manage to do it first go after the comp. The third route was surprisingly easy compared to the second and I managed it with ease.

Then we went on to do the finals, where I was the last person out of isolation.

I got on the route and fell over half way up. The second I reached the ground I was swarmed by my friends who told me I had got the furthest on the route and therefore won. I was overwhelmed with happiness after a brilliant day.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ratho Training Weekend

A short roundup by Tom Bonnert of a recent weekend up at Ratho in preperation for the first European Cup. The small team from the peak area consisted of Sam Brannigan, Luke Tilley, Ed Hamer and Tom.

After the long trip up from Sheffield the day before we turned up at Ratho on the Saturday. All feeling really psyched to send some hard routes. The trip up was preparation for the first round of the EYC’s being held at EICA. (Edinburgh International Climbing Arena)

Our first day was all about the on sights to start off with. After a comp style warm up we hit the competition wall. There was plenty of hard routes to go at, all the way up to 8b. The first day had some good routes sent and everyone was looking strong and climbing really well. After the on sights it was time for some high end endurance. First day finished with everyone feeling fairly shattered. There was definitely some sore skin.

Second day we were back on the on sights at the beginning of the day. Routes that were not attempted on the day before were tried on the second day. Some really good on sights were ticked on this day by Ed and Luke who both on sighted several 8a+s and Ed on sighting the only 8b in the centre, Sam and Tom both sent an 8a each. Towards the end of the session it was time for some low end endurance which we did until the end of the days session.

Overall Route Tally



















Sunday, 15 May 2011

Peak EYC Preparation

Everything is kicking off in the peak area in the run up to the Ratho European Youth Cup, Tom Randall did a fantastic job setting some competition style routes up to 8a+ at The Edge in Sheffield. We all had 3 routes to have an onsight attempt on and we had the customers of the wall watching in awe. Particular good effort from Billy fighting all the way through a spicey 7c+ and Ed for flashing all 3 routes!
This week there will be a second comp practice session going on at The Foundry, Sheffield, where an international route setting course has been held in preparation for the setting at the EYC, what better preparation could we ask for!
Big thanks to Tom for his setting and the Edge for hosting the routes and training.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Siurana Round-up 23rd April 2011

Back from Spain after spending two weeks in Siurana. I think I did quite well for my first real international outdoor trip. The first week I just did mileage (ticked 23 routes 5+ to 7a+) and managed to onsight a 7a and a 7a+. Then in the second week I choose a project route. I had to choose between 4 routes, 2 7cs, a 7a onto a 7c, or a 7b+/7c. I choose the 7b+/7c called Papagora; it was graded 7b+ in the newer guide book, but in 2 other guide books it said 7c and Toni, the guy that bolted it, said it was 7c so I decided to take it as a 7c. I had 1 go working the start, another trying to get up to the crux in one (which I did easily) and one go on top rope on the crux with the help of Neil McGeachy shouting directions and advice. After the top rope I then went for the whole route Lead and managed it. I was really pleased because I had previously fallen off the route to the right called Mandargora (7b+) and injured my ankle. It took me a while after that to get past the fear of the run outs and falling and I was really happy when I managed to get past and power through on Papagora.

This was the first time I’ve really projected a route and it showed me that if you break things down, and keep at it, you can do things you’d never have thought possible before. I'd like to say a big thanks to Neil McGeachy for organising the trip and MCofS for supporting it and giving me the opportunity to experience such an amazing location.

Anyway back to EICA:Ratho tomorrow to help 6 little kids at our Club with their skills and then onto plastic for my own session; after Siurana its gonna be an interesting day :/

Friday, 22 April 2011

GB Winter Activities

Finally the clocks have changed the days are sunny and we begin to feel the beauty of peak performance. During the dark months when the competition season is out, short days and poor weather prevent much if not all outdoor climbing and training is the main focus. Boulder competitions and local boulder leagues are often the only things that keep the juices flowing and provide a break from dark circuit boards and gruelling regimes. Here are some updates on what we have been getting our teeth stuck into over the winter.

British Bouldering Championships

This is one of the only times in the year that we get the chance to get together with our team mates for a day of bouldering. It is always great fun with lots of familiar faces and is interestingly different from the competitions we are so used to. However even though we jauntily say that we are route climbers and not that interested in bouldering deep down we are all there to prove to ourselves, and the climbing community how good we are and where we stand against those folk who call themselves boulderers.

There were some fantastic performances from the team particularly in Junior Females, 4 out of the top 5 places being held by us route climbers. Tara won, Rachel and Molly followed and Sarah came 5th. The junior males was easily won by our new team member Sam Brannigan. In seniors males Adam did very well qualifying for the finals and finished 5th Ed came 11th and I came 15th. Kitty just missed the finals by 3 points in her first year as a senior which is a fantastic result! All round brilliant performance by everyone well done!

Tara Hayes in the finals

'Winning the BBC's does mean a lot to me personally because it's nice to get something back from all the hard work you put in - but don't get me wrong, I love the training! As for the training, I enjoy every second of it but you do have to really push it if you want to achieve your goal. I find the competitions really motivate me for the training because if you put in everything you've got, the results will come in the end. I thought the competition ran smoothly even though it was in a tight time schedule; so I'd like to thank everyone who helped to organise the comp.' – Tara Hayes

Climbing Works International Festival

This is the boulder event I most look forward to, the atmosphere is always great and the standard inspirational. With 30 problems in qualification this really is a test of your bouldering ability. The competition was held over 2 days this year and attracted an incredible, 300 competitors from the UK and abroad. Adam Watson put in an outstanding performance making it through to semis and on into the finals finishing a very impressive 3rd overall. Ed was incredibly close to qualifying for the semis coming 17th with 16 climbers going through. I came 52nd / 2nd in the under 18

Adam Watson in the finals,

Luke Tilley flashing a qualifyer, Photo: Kenny Stocker

Southern Indoor Bouldering League

The capital city, as one would hope has a big boulder league, SIBL is held at 6 different climbing centres and once again we have had a brilliant representation from our team. In the junior girls (Under 16s) Molly battled it out and achieved top place, a note worthy achievement at 13! Kitty was also well on track to completely dominated the senior women category. Unfortunately missing two rounds for other climbing commitments, amazingly still coming 4th with a round less than taken for the final score.

SIBL Junior female podium, Photo: Sam Johnson

“This year was my most successful, coming 2nd twice and 1st three times. The best five scores out of six determine your final position for the series. I really enjoyed competing in the series, with my favourite rounds being The Castle and Craggy Island.” – Molly Thompson-Smith

Nottingham Boulder league

The winter boulder series held every year is always an exciting event with a strong turn out of local boulderers. Team members competing this year were Tom Bonnet, Sarah Pashley, and myself. There were excellent results from everyone, Sarah came 2nd in the senior females, Tom joint 2nd in senior Males just a few points behind me. Tom has done a summary of the series

“My main focus in climbing is lead climbing but I do enjoy the laid back atmosphere of bouldering. Even in the bouldering comps, there is still the friendly aspect of climbing where you all end up helping each other out and offering advice.

I recently competed in the Nottingham winter bouldering league. It consists of five rounds where the best three are averaged into one final score. Luke Tilley and Sarah Pashley were also in this competition.

The first round was in November. I was feeling really psyched for this competition and I was also feeling pretty strong after quite a lot of training I had recently done. I was climbing well and I did well in the first competition. I topped fifteen out of a possible twenty problems but not topping them on my first go meant that my score was 129 out of a possible 200. I was pleased with this score and it was quite high in relation to the rest of the field.

The second round was December. Again I was feeling pretty strong and I felt good for this competition. I was climbing well in the competition. Being dynamic where required but not out of control. The competition went really well and I finished with a really good score of 180 out of 200. I flashed all of the problems that I managed to top in the comp giving me a 1st in this round.

The next round that I did was February as I missed the January competition. This round looked really good and the problems looked really different. It was a really good round and it differed a lot in problem styles from the previous rounds and it threw me on a few problems. I still managed to come out with a strong score of 161. I was pleased this score and it put me in a good position overall.

The overall standing was all down to the last round between me and three other people. Ben Meakin, John Nightingale and of course Luke Tilley… I climbed well but made a few little mistakes meaning that I dropped some points. Finished with a score of 158.

Overall I managed to finish joint 2nd with Ben, Luke Tilley coming out on top in 1st place. I was really pleased with this result as I was not expecting such a good finish. Great competition this year and I look forward to next years winter league.” - Tom Bonert

Luke Tilley on the final problem of the final round, Photo: Paul Philips

It is great to see such good results in the major and regional bouldering competitions from the lead team and I think this bodes really well for the summer lead competitions if this boulder strength can be applied to routes. The season is about to begin, with the leading ladder final and the Edinburgh EYC, good luck everyone!

Written by Luke Tilley, Sponsored by Evolv, Metolius, Prana, Alpkit and Pulsin

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Spain – 13th April

Spain – 13th April I’ve been in Siurana for 5 days now. Climbed 1 5+ 2 6a+’s and a 7a+ on my first atempt. First route I fell off outdoors was a 7b+, fell once at the start of the crux and then again just at the end. Unfortunately the way I fell the second time damage my ankle by falling straight in and causing my toe to almost touch my shin, which wasn’t too fun. I had to hop all the way back to the road over rocks and through thin paths that felt harder than the climb. That put me out for 2 days. The first day back I tried a 6c+ which was mental and basically a v7 boulder problem from my point of view, it also didn’t help that I was terrified of falling from the injury but also because it wasn’t that long a climb. Then my coach Neil McGeachy decided to put me on a 8b+ top rope at about 8:00 at night (basically during sunset). I managed quite well on it after falling off a 6c+. Managed the first technical bit and then fell off at one of the hardest moves on the climb. After a lot of bumping up the rope and swinging by 2 fingers from a quick draw I pulled back on and jumped to a decent jug to move on to the second hardest move on the route. I couldn’t quite make that insane move and didn’t want to take up anymore of Calum’s time by forcing him to belay me, so I just pulled past it and onto the juggy section. This was my favourite part of the route. It was big moves and jugs all the way. Pulling up past this bit was amazing. But unfortunately all good things come to an end; I reached the crux at the end of the jugs and fell off jumping for a small crimp which maybe wasn’t the best idea. By this time it was seconds away from darkness so Calum let me down by having the end of the rope chucked at my head, wasn’t to enjoyable. Over all good trip so far. Psyched for some more hard core 8’s.

Friday, 8 April 2011

YCS round 2

Saturday 2nd April

Fellow GB team member Angus Davidson had a sore elbow at the second round of the South Scotland Youth Climbing Series. That meant I had to demonstrate 18 routes ranging from grade 4+ for the first 8-10 route to 7a+ for the 14-16 boys final route. In addition as we were using the same routes for top rope and lead there were 5 ropes to set. When I wasn’t roped in I was trying to study for a Chemistry exam that I had on Monday. Multi tasking indeed.

This event was being held in the Pleasance Tower and Rock rooms, part of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Sport and Excellence. When the Quickdraw Climbing Club had organised a special pre-comp visit for its members a couple of weeks ago (no under 16s are allowed in unless it is an organised group) it seemed really small so we were worried a) about how all the climbers and spectators would fit in and b) how the route setters would be able to sort out the pack. We needn’t have worried. Alan Cassidy and Mike Jeans did a brilliant job and the separate rooms for the boulders and routes meant everyone had plenty space. We still needed super finals for the boys and girls 8-10s and I heard that North Scotland needed the same. This means we are going to have some brilliant action at the Scottish Finals in May in this age group. I wonder how I would have done if I had started climbing at that age?

Next week I’ll be climbing in Spain with the ‘McGeek Squad’ at an MCofS supported training camp. So looking forward to seeing the guys again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Campus Advice

The BMC has just published some brief advice on campusing. This is worth Team members taking note of. I believe a more detailed announcement will follow soon.

More detail is now available:

Thursday, 24 March 2011


I'm heading off to Spain next Tuesday for a few weeks to meet up with some friends and hopefully climb some sick routes. I'll be in Siurana first to meet up with Neil Mgeek and some other climbers then who know where I'll be going, hopefully Santa Linya and Margalef, why can the UK have crags like that! There's already a squad of climber from Edinburgh out there having a successful trip, I'm kind of relying on Mgeek to pick me up from the airport or I'll be sleeping there again! I don't have any routes in particular I want to try so there's no pressure just chillin in the sun doing some routes sweeeet!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Scottish High Schools Climbing Competition 2011

Saturday 12th March 2011

Another weekend, another climbing competition. This time I was competing on behalf of my school – The Royal High School.

The SSCC is only in its second year. It was the idea of a teacher from St Aloysius College and is supported by Mountaineering Council of Scotland. It aims to encourage schools to take their pupils along to indoor walls and give climbing a go either as part of their PE class or as an after-school activity. This year 75 S1-S6 pupils took part in the qualifying rounds in Stirling, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow and the top 16 went forward into the final at Glasgow Climbing Centre.

With last year’s winner, and fellow GB team mate, Eleanor Hopkins still out with injury, there were only 6 girls taking part. In a deviation from the norm we all went into isolation from the start and boys and girls climbed the same routes. The first two were easy and all but one climber topped out; but I never take anything for granted. It only takes a moment’s lapse in concentration for a foot to slip. The third, and final, route was on the feature wall and a significant step up in grade but even so 5 of us flashed it. The organisers called a super final and told us it would start in 10 minutes. The didn’t tell us which route it would be but there was only one tricky one on the wall so we all stood and talked it through then it was back into isolation. I was last out to climb but could hear the audience cheer when Angus Davidson reached the top. I also heard the gasps when my competition Rebekah Drummond fell. I couldn’t let Angus get one up on me so I had to top. It was challenging with lots of slopers and some tricky footwork. The last few moves were nasty but I made it.

Alan Cassidy was there to present the prizes which included a very fancy silver trophy. Unfortunately I was told this was for my school so I won’t get to stick it on my bedroom shelf. It was a good day and I hope next year there are more people taking part.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Scotland South YCS Round 1

Saturday 5th March 2011

I was back at The Peak Climbing wall in Stirling again for round 1 of the Scotland South YCS. We start in March to avoid the worst of the Scottish weather. Being on the GB team I can't compete so thought I’d give demo-ing another go. It's good to keep involved in the series and some of the younger climbers I work with at my club were taking part so I wanted to be there for them too.

Angus Davidson and I spent most of the morning choosing who got the easiest routes. I still ended up with the hardest routes. We both managed to fall off at least once though.

The routes were set by Simon Tait, Gary Vincent, Robbie Phillips and Calum Forsyth assisted by Eleanor Hopkins and Ross Kirkland; a lot of different styles to climb. Have to say it was yet again Robbie’s route I fell off. He picks the worst holds and puts them right at the end of routes, just to be mean. It doesn't help that I have to climb as an 8-10 year old would. No missing out holds or making big moves. Demos are mean't to show the participants the best way to climb a route so I had to 'think small'.

The kids were all really psyched for it and some of them climbed amazing. They all seemed really professional in the way they acted between climbs, sitting watching and shouting each other on.

Can’t wait till the next round at Edinburgh University, The Pleasance on 2nd April. Haven’t climbed there before so should be interesting. Wonder if Natalie Berry has any beta?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Team Assessment

Looking forward to the Assessment weekend on 26th March at Leeds Wall. Some great Seniors attending such as Dave Barrans, Adam Watson, Nat Berry to name a few. This will be the starting date to select and reinvigorate a new Senior Team.
Tom Randall will be organising the training on Sunday at the Depot and here we will be introducing the new Senior Team Coach, Martin Lindley a Sports Science lecturer from Loughborough University.
The Junior Team season doesn't really get going till May with the first EYS of the year to be held at Ratho, so the Team members once selected will be in full training mode till then. Ian Dunn (Team Manager), Tom Randall (Team Coach) and Carol Hayes (Team Physio) are also taking a very small group out to Imst, Austria in April (Ed Hamer, Luke Tilley, Edd Mowbray, Tara Hayes and Molly Thompson Smith) in preparation for the EYS's and the World Championships in Imst later this year.

The international competitions calendar can be found at;

The Youth C category can find the important Youth Colours in Imst and Arco on this site too. As they state, these events are Open so any young climbers from the UK can register for these events.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Psyched! Issue 4

The all new issue of the BMC's fabulous online Competitions Newsletter is here!  Psyched! is produced by the BMC Competition Committee, to keep BMC members informed about what is going on in the world of competition climbing.

This newsletter, like BMC Area newsletters, is written by volunteers and also by competition climbers for BMC members who are interested in what goes on in climbing competitions and the competition climbing community.

This issue covers key climbers both at home and abroad, volunteers, articles on the dry tooling and ice climbing comps, insights from various members of the British Team and much more!

Download Psyched! Issue 4 now