With a weekend of blisteringly hot weather ahead, a fresh new wall erected on Devonshire Green and forty athletes ready to battle it out in Sheffield, Steve Thorley got himself down to the mats to give Blacks’ readers coverage of the British Bouldering Championships 2018.
Forty climbers, eight routes and only twelve places up for grabs in the final (six male, six female) the semi-finals kicked off in great fashion but also led to one of the toughest sets of routes I’ve seen in competition bouldering for quite some time. The route setters really wanted to make these guys work for those finals spots. It also led to one of the best feelings as a spectator of the sport: seeing someone get past that crux in the route; seeing someone finally get the move that’s been hindering them; seeing one of these incredible athletes tear through a route when thirty seconds previously it spat them back on to the mats.
Following the semis there was a special presentation, recognising eight-year-old Edward Mills for his incredible achievement in not only climbing the 137m Old Man of Hoy in Orkney, but also raising over £35,000 in the process towards the charity CAC (Climbers against Cancer) in aid of his mother who unfortunately has terminal cancer.
With the semis scores totalled, we had Nathan Philips, Dave Barrans, Matt Cousins, Aidan Roberts, Alex Waterhouse and Max Ayrton through for the mens. In the women's: Hannah Slaney, Natalie Berry, Jen Wood, Ettie Warren, Rhoslyn Frugtniet and Hannah Smith. A great mix in both categories of experience and fresh blood coming through from the junior level. Speaking of experience, before the finals kicked off Dave Barrans was awarded by the Mayor of Sheffield for making this his 15th year in the competition, proving himself to still be as formidable on the walls as he has been since he started competing.
Where the semi-finals proved to be quite daunting, the finals gave us an outstanding display of power and technique. In the women's competition the fight for first place was hotly contested by Hannah Slaney, Jen Wood and Natalie Berry. An interesting mix of dynamic jumps and horrible sloping holds made for some great viewing for the crowd and interesting beta to solve the routes. However, a mistake for Jen Wood on Problem One unfortunately hindered her chances, as Hannah Slaney came in to take the title with an incredible four flashes (first attempt finishes) on four routes, firmly cementing herself as the British Champion.
For the men's, one route proved almost unclimbable on the day. Problem Four led the climbers to display precise balance and footwork, but ultimately a horrible second to last position proved to be the unbeatable crux of the route for all except Matt Cousins. The men did fare slightly better with these routes compared to the semis however, with each athlete completing at least two of the routes. If not for an out-of-bounds ruling for Matt Cousins on Route 4, he may well have taken the title. It was Nathan Philips however, who took the win home.
The Cliffhanger Event in Sheffield is an incredible day out. Bouldering is fast becoming a popular sport. With its inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as well, there’s never been a better time to get on the wall.