Climbing Competition Types and Formats
There are many types of climbing competitions: Bouldering, red point, on-sight, and speed climbing. Each type of competition can be done effectively on an indoor rock climbing wall.
Bouldering. A bouldering competition is characterized by short routes and high strength moves. Bouldering is typically defined as climbing without the use of ropes. Usually bouldering routes in a gym do not exceed 4m (12 ft.). Outdoor bouldering routes may exceed twice that height. A bouldering competition can be easier to organize than difficulty and has high spectator appeal. The pace of a bouldering competition is faster and more interesting for the audience and is preferred by many climbers. The bouldering format works well for either red point or on sight. fitness training principles for a bouldering competition requires power training.
Difficulty. This usually refers to the use of ropes to climb versus bouldering. A difficulty competition may be either red point or on sight. A difficulty competition will usually range in height from about 6m (or 18 feet). Training for difficulty competition requires a balance of endurance and strength.
Speed Climbing. This format is the most fun to watch and probably the most marketable from a media perspective. Climbers compete against time to see who can reach the top of the route first.
Red Point. This type of competition provides many different climbing routes. Each route has a different level of difficulty and a unique point value commensurate to the level of difficulty. Points are gained only if the route is completed. The basic strategy for the red point is to warm up on easy climbs. After warming up you are ready to peak on the hardest climb you are capable of sending. Here strategy is important. You must correctly evaluate the most difficult climb you are capable of completing. If you can not complete a climb, you may continue to try. However, as you continue to work the climb, your endurance and strength diminish. Therefore, many climbers use the strategy to attempt a climb only twice until they complete the mandatory number of climbs. Then difficult climbs are re-attempted in an effort to improve the score. There are many variations on the red point climbing competition. Event organizers may place a route judge at each climb, or allow the competitor's to verify and initial each other's score cards. This is a popular competition format.
On Sight. This form of climbing competition is used by National and World Cup difficulty climbing events. Competitors are allowed one preview and one attempt on a route. The height the climber achieves will determine the number of points awarded for the climb. After initial registration, climbers are taken to an isolation area. Competitors are taken to the wall prior to the start of competition for a preview. When the competition begins, the competitors will climb one at a time. There are strict rules forbidding any discussion about the route or wall with climbers who remain in isolation. Following the attempt, a climber may stay inthe viewing area with spectators and those other climbers who have previously completed their climb. They may not return to the isolation area.
Flash. This is a competition format where competitors can watch each other climb, but each climber only gets one try. You may talk to the other competitors and spectators about the routes, exchange "beta" and sequences. However, while you are climbing you are not allowed to receive any "beta". Many gyms prefer this format because there are fewer routes required and no isolation required.
Sanctioned vs. non-Sanctioned. A sanctioned climbing competition will give you points toward your national ranking or world ranking. A non-sanctioned climbing competition does not provide points toward a ranking and is usually just for fun. TheUnion Internationale Des Associations D’Alpinisme (UIAA) is the sanctioning body for international ranking. Within the UIAA, the Comite Internacionale de Competition d’Escalade (ICC) coordinates with member nations to oversee that country’s national team for competition on the World Cup level.
Local. These competitions are not sanctioned at the international level, and often are not sanctioned by the country's national body. Often they have prizes from local suppliers or sponsors versus prize money. Often the routes are set by local climbers or gym staff. This format is the most flexible and is predominantly for a fun, low stress social event.
Regional. These competitions are usually sanctioned by the country's sanctioning body. Prizes vary and may be a combination of cash purse or gear. Routes are typically set by certified course setters and the completion will have specific rules defined.
National. These competitions are sanctioned by the county's sanctioning body. The prize is typically a cash purse. Generally the purpose of the National is to choose a national team. The national team will then be the country's representative at world competitions.
UIAA. The International Union of Alpinist Associations is the international sanctioning body for international climbing competitions. It is composed of representatives from each of the 60+ member countries. Each country's national body chooses its representative to the UIAA. The UIAA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the official body representing competition climbing.
The World Cup. This is a series of climbing competitions of the best climbers in each country. Each country has its own rules and policies for selecting its national team members. There are both male and female categories. Typically each country will have a competition season. The season begins at a local or regional level and progresses to a national competition. The top finishers at a national competition are selected to represent their country at internationally sanctioned events, such as the World Cup series. The UIAA allows each national team to make substitutions if some of their primary team members cannot compete. After completing the world cup series, the climber with the most points is selected as the World Cup winner.
World Championship. Held every two years on Olympic "off years". There is one winner from each the male and female categories. The winners become the world champions and hold the title for two years.
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