A few years ago I got hooked on the campus board. It's a great way for me to train power and I really enjoy it. I go long stretches where I don't practice it at all, and then I'll get back into it and train on it once a week. I do a cardio warm up and boulder lightly for 45 minutes. After that I get to the board where I follow a modified version of Ben Moon's workout. Immediately I was fascinated with the magical 1-5-9: Start matched on rung 1, move up to rung 5, then to rung 9. Match, drop, and rejoice.
1-5-9 was made famous in the film "The Real Thing" - The first true bouldering feature film, "The Real Thing" was released in 1996 and chronicled British legends Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat on a trip to Fontainebleau. At one point in the video they're training on a campus board and Ben completes a new personal best going from the bottom of the board to the top in only two moves doing "1-5-9". I say "1-5-9" in quotes because if you watch the video (which everyone should) you can see that the last rung on the board is only at half the regular spacing because they have run out of room on the wall. So, Ben Moon's accomplishment is actually "1-5-8.5" according to the specifications of his board.
This "1-5-9" soon became the aspiration of all would-be tough campus boarders.
The first board that I trained on had rungs spaced at 8 inches apart. After a while I achieved 1-5-9, to much screaming and excitement. It was at this time when I became interested in the specifics of the campus board design in hopes of measuring exactly how valuable my accomplishments were.
The original campus board was built in 1988 by Wolfgang Gullich. Although I've never officially heard first hand, this board is believed to have had rungs spaced at 8 inch distances and is the reason why a number of boards worldwide have this spacing.
The original campus board
After training on that original board with Wolfgang, Jerry Moffat built his own campus board at the famous "School Room" in Sheffield, England. This board was built with rungs spaced at 22cm (except the last one) and this spacing has slowly become the standard spacing for an official campus board.
The board in the "School Room"
After researching online and speaking to climbers in Sheffield, Altitude Climbing Gym built a beautiful campus board completely to specifications:
- Approximately 20 degrees overhanging - Rungs spaced at 22cm - Columns of large, medium, and small rungs.
I have been on the campus board once a week for a about a month and I've recently repeated my personal best achieved in March 2009. I completed 1-5-8.5 on 22cm spaced medium-sized rungs! This is a big deal for me and it’s equal to Ben Moon’s accomplishment in The Real Thing. I’m really excited. Here is a video snapped with my mobile phone:
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While symbolic of a great accomplishment for myself, it's also a pretty good achievement in the climbing community and certainly not a usual occurrence. However, keep in mind that Malcolm Smith and Daniel Woods have done 1-5-8.5 STATIC. Alternatively, there's only a handful of people who are rumoured to have done 1-5-9 at 22cm, a feat which has been discussed to be around the V14 level of effort. I can't wait to get back at it and keep reaching for that last half rung.
If this got you psyched here's some other fun stuff:
In this video Nalle Hukkataival does 1-5-9 on a board with 20cm spacing.
For even more reading on the topic Jamie Emerson wrote an interesting article in 2010 with some good comments.