The weekend of the 8th and 9th of December marked the first British Mountaineering Council (BMC) Youth Open events of the season. The BMC has been organising Youth events for years but this weekend was different as it was the premier of a new format for Bouldering.
The weekend was a double-header, with the Lead event on the Saturday and the Bouldering on the Sunday. This would be the first time I had attended a Youth Open on this scale so it seemed strange that I would be attending my first one as the Team Manager/Coach of the new GB Junior Bouldering Team. This weekend my remit was to assist with the selection of the new 2013 GB Junior Lead Team and use the Bouldering event to select the new GB Junior Bouldering Team.
Catching the train over from a slightly snowy Sheffield early on Saturday morning, I was joined by another Sheffield based coach Adam Harrison. Me and Adam went to University together and it was great to have a catch up, get geeky about coaching and also talk about what I was to expect of the weekends events. Adam has been a National Talent Coach for the BMC for a few years and also forms part of the selection panel for the GB Lead Team. Ian Dunn (GB Junior Lead Team Manager) had asked me to join this group as some of the climbers will be able to cross discipline between bouldering and lead for the first time.
Keen to share some past experience Adam talked about how “Its a great competition and watching some of the kids climb is really impressive”. Upon arriving at Awesome Walls in Liverpool we were greeted by an excitable Ian Dunn. If any of you know Ian, you will know how passionate he is and without doubt on this morning he was in his element. We always enjoy a bit of playful banter about how he feels bouldering is inferior to lead climbing. Before I had even got a word out he dived straight in with the first blow “So, come to watch a real comp have you?”. 1-0 to the GB Lead Team.
Photo: Peter Wuensche
For the first part of the morning I was there simply to watch some of the climbing and familiarise myself with the set up. Awesome Walls was one of the places I started climbing so it almost felt like home being back. My Dad had even popped in to do some belaying so apart from the competitors all climbing much harder than I ever did at that age, it seemed like old times.
Some serious route reading from the Youth B Boys. Photo: Peter Wuensche
As the day unfolded I became more and more impressed with some of the spectacles I saw. In particular highlights for me were watching Buster Martin top all of his routes including the 8a+ final route to the rapturous applause of the crowd. Youth C Female and Sheffield local Izzy Hough also put up a huge fight, clawing her way through the overhang to take top spot on the podium. Lastly Molly Thompson Smith deserves a special mention for stepping off the podium after her win, putting her harness back on to go and onsight the Junior Boys final 8a+. Inspiration from all three of these guys.
The selection panel meeting went well and I was a privileged to be involved with Ian and his team as they went about selecting the new squad.
Before we knew it we were back again for Round 2 on the Sunday. This time at the Climbing Hangar where it was the turn of the Boulderer’s to impress the selection panel and gain a place on the new 2013 GB Junior Bouldering Team. This will be the first time GB has ever had a Junior Bouldering Team and with our first international coming up in May, myself and Head Coach/Assist. Manager Lucinda Whittaker were keen to select a team ready to compete.
For the competition an IFSC format was used with 8 qualification bloc’s leading to 3 final boulders. The aim of this was to best replicate the set up of an international event. Over the course of the day I think I saw nearly every 163 competitors on the wall at some point and was overwhelmed with the huge growth in popularity of bouldering compared with 10 years ago. Most of the competitors had been in the Lead event the day before and there were some weary looking arms out there. However, this didn’t stop some great performances and I again found that Adam’s early words were ringing true.
Gracie Martin fighting hard in the Lead event
Photo: Peter Wuensche
After the event had finished our selection panel meeting seemed to be a bit tougher than the previous nights. Some of the categories were harder to split based on results with either a high standard of competitor or not as many blocs topped. However, the selection panel did a great job and soon we had all decided on which athletes would be the first competitors to ever represent GB Junior Bouldering.
A big thank you to the BMC for organising such a great weekend and also a big thank you to all the competitors, parents, volunteers and coaches who made this weekend so memorable.
For more information on the new GB Junior Climbing Team please follow the link below:
You can find out more about BMC competitions through their indoor competitions calendar.