Setting the Mammut Bouldering Championships part 2: Qualifiers

At the risk of boring all you non-routesetters, I'm going to do one more MBC post and take you through qualifiers. I figure most climbers have climbed in a gym at least once, for training, because it'd been raining for days and they had to get out of the house and their significant other really wanted to go, right? And maybe you even did a competition once, just for fun? Ok, so there'll be some common ground here... Steven Jeffery working some French technique on Men's Qualifier 3

Qualifiers were held at The Front Climbing Club in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Front is a great gym for comps because it's one long beautiful plywood wall that can be easily split up into sections and makes for fairly easy viewing.

Last year the citizen's comp was set before we ran qualifiers so the pro competitors had to pick their problems out from the jumble of holds and tape. The idea was that the Front's setters would be spared the hassle of setting overnight after qualifiers in order to be ready for the citizen's comp the next morning.

Unfortunately, for the pro competitors the massive amount of holds on the wall led to more than one technical and more than one top-seeded competitor not making it to finals.  Not ideal.  This year the Front agreed to do the extra work and let us leave the walls bare besides the qualifier problems.  This made us a lot happier (because the problems were more aesthetically pleasing and we didn't have to watch competitors screw the sequences up as much) and the competitors were a lot happier as well.

The field was thick with talent and a large part of the difficulty of setting an event like this is splitting the competitors fairly.  In order to split them up it is nice to set problems that challenge a wide range of abilities, so the climbers who advance will be the most clever, powerful, technical, subtle, and precise.

One benefit setting at the Front is the large back room of special holds, including weird comp-pour holds, unique features, and wooden volumes.  Tonde (our French setting friend) dug a bunch of the volumes out of the back and mounted them on the wall in an interesting fan pattern, which was eventually slightly altered to create a very technical and challenging Men's 3 (see the picture above) and Women's 3 (picture quite a ways below).  He also gave Joel a volume for Men's 4 and leant me John Stack's custom made big red globe for use on Women's 5.

Me showing off the big red globe on Women's Qualifier 5

The red globe was made of fiberglass molded in layers over the end of an outdoor propane tank.  It was first used on a Men's problem 2 at Sendfest a few years ago by Chris Danielson (and was orange, I think), but we busted it out again for this comp, this time for the women.

Originally I was going to make the women grovel with the gigantic sloping feature, but we realized the bulge was awkward enough as it was without the additional challenge of finding the few rough spots and pulling on them.  I wanted to use grip tape, as Tonde did on his volumes, but it wouldn't stick to the fiberglass.  Luckily we found places that jibs would stick solidly in the fiberglass, and I drew gigantic flower-shaped tick marks out of chalk to help the climbers find them.

Because it was Women's 5 we expected the women to be tired by the time they got here.  In order to challenge them, I made the approach to the globe out of fun and powerful moves between large holds on a steep roof.  Here you can see Kate McGinnis using the toe-hook method to match the big worm and go for the double Mini T-Rex holds.

Kate powering through the roof on Women's Q 5

Once you got the t-rex holds you had to basically campus your left hand around the corner to a medium sized edge, then heel hook your right foot next to your right hand and rock up to get a jib on the bottom right side of the globe.  From there you had to match feet and keep your balance as you stood up and slapped left hand over the top of the globe, hopefully to find the jibs.  From there it was match hands and mantle/jump to the top.  Tim Kemple took a very nice picture of Alex Puccio doing this move.  Overall I was very happy with how the problem turned out, with women falling off every single move but some still managing to get to the top.

Women's qualifier 1 was set by Brian Sweeney--his first ever big comp problem!  I think it turned out fairly well, only requiring a few tweaks to be comp-ready and getting sent by almost everybody (as problem 1 should be).  The red sloper (third hold) definitely got greasy though, and posed an unexpected challenge as a few major competitors fell off it on their first attempt.

Sweeney showing off his first pro comp problem, Women's Q 1

This was Sweeney's second year helping at the summer MBC, and besides setting a problem he also provided big help by forerunning other problems, taking pictures, hanging banners, keeping the rest of us in a good mood, and doing all the other tasks we setters have to contend with.  He and Joel even spent part of one day painting the volumes.

Sweeney and Joel making things look pretty.

A hold taped so it wouldn't get paint on it.  It had to stay on the volume for painting because there was no way to keep it in the exact right position otherwise.

The other new MBC setter this year was Bret Johnston from Seattle.  Bret is an awesome kid, and there's really not much else to say about it.  He came in with a good attitude and kept everybody laughing as he set his problems and helped us tweak ours.

Bret showing off Men's Qualifier 2

Flashed Athlete and national setter Joel Zerr set Men's qualifier 5, and it was an awesome problem.  He used a volume to create an interesting flip around backwards sequence that lead to a powerful downward match, then a big move up to the mega T-Rex and a technical and powerful finishing sequence that nobody was quite able to do, though both Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson got close.

Daniel Woods using the correct sequence for Men's Q 5 while Alex Puccio does the technical perch move on Women's 3

Paul Robinson looking good on Men's Qualifier 5

Daniel becoming one of the few men to pull into the headwall moves.

Overall I'd say qualifiers were a success, and, though not all the strongest competitors made finals, the field for finals was very impressive and all who made it were definitely worthy.  It was nice to have a variety of styles in the qualifier problems, and having Tonde set both Men's and Women's qualifier 3 problems was good because he threw a lot of Frenchie Technical Style into the mix that most US competitors aren't used to having to deal with.  Most of the competitors I spoke with seemed happy as well, happier than last year at least, and all had had fun on most, if not all, of their problems.

More photos, recaps, and videos of qualifiers and finals: Bouldering ChampionshipsDead Point MagMomentum Video MagazineClimbing Narc, or just google it!

Thanks for sticking with me!

Setting the Mammut Bouldering Championships 2009 part 1: Backstory and Rainproofing

Like most climbers, I make a measly living through an amalgamation of several different jobs, including working the front desk at The Spot Gym in Boulder, setting routes at the Spot, taking photos and writing bits for magazines and websites, and occasionally routesetting for major competitions.  Unlike some banner years in the 80s and 90s, these days competition routesetting can hardly be considered a way to make a living in terms of $ made for hours worked.  With rare exception, any given pro comp will require a straight week of 12-20 hour days of setting, tweaking, and forerunning.  In return you might get travel money, a hotel room (often shared with several other people) a food stipend, and sometimes a little bit of money for your trouble.  In addition, the people are great, the comps are fun, and the climbing week after your 2-5 post comp rest days is a good time to send your projects with all the strength you've built up from forerunning. The gigantic eye and other parts of Walltopia's Prometheus.

This summer was the third straight year the Mammut Bouldering Championships was set atop the parking garage at Shiloh Inn in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  This tradeshow comp used to be called Sendfest, and the first two years I helped set it was held by The Front Climbing Club and USA Climbing.  In 2007 NE2C out of the northeast took over and began holding a two location comp with qualifiers at The Front and finals atop the parking garage.  The wall for finals has been different every year, with a modular Pyramide wall in 2007, four beautiful curved plywood walls in 2008 made especially for the event by John Stack and Vertical Solutions out of Salt Lake, and the 2009 Walltopia Prometheus with huge streaked features and a gigantic red eye.

Setting the Walltopia Prometheus

The eye was supposed to have four huge black eyelashes above it, but they were too easy to use as volumes and would have made it difficult to set really hard final #4 problems, so we only used one of 'em.

One of my very best friends and fellow Flashed climber Joel Zerr came along for the second straight year to help set the event.  Our friend and amazing setter Kyle McCabe, NE2C head Jason Danforth, Jason Kehl, traveling French World Cup Setter Tonde Katiyo, photographer and Flashed athlete Brian Sweeney, underrated genius Paul Handlen, and skinny white boy Bret Johnston from Seattle rounded out the setting group, though we got help from the wonderful people at The Front and the dedicated volunteer employees of NE2C as well.

Joel, Bret and Kyle playing with a rose move off the lift.

We set finals first, spending mornings and evenings (until way after midnight) atop the garage.  We couldn't set all day because from around 3-7 the sun was directly on the wall and the heat was too much to bear.  The holds were new (i.e. very textured) and the wall was an aggressive fiberglass, so forerunning was especially brutal, especially when the holds were still hot from being in the sun all day.  Bret sustained an especially bad wall burn on the inside of his right knee that he whined about for days afterward.  We were lucky to have a lift to set the tops of the very tall wall, and the lift also helped a bit when we had to set up a rain-proofing system on the back of the walls in case it rained (like it did last year).

Tonde and Kyle strapping a plastic roll to the back of the wall.

Our system turned out to be rudimentry, it was hard to set up (cause the backs of the walls were black and often in the sun when we were working on it) and made of thin plastic and strapping.  The idea was that if it did start to rain we'd remove the strings and the plastic sheeting would unfurl like a red carpet down the back of the wall and keep water of the back of the wall and therefore from running through the bolt holes (also like it did last year).  We weren't positive it'd work, and the plastic sheeting was thinner than we thought it'd be, so we were delighted when, in the middle of our last forerunning session, the strings holding one section up untied themselves and we heard the plastic rolling down the back of the wall and hitting the ground.  We looked and it was covering the wall, and hadn't torn.  Success!  Sort of.

We were lucky it didn't rain.


Here is a picture of Paul holding up the eye with a piece of strapping.  It's a good thing he was there, or nothing would've gotten done.

Next week, part 2: setting qualifiers!