Climbing Maryland: Bouldering Competitions and Fun at Earth Treks

Celebrating at dinner with one of my favorite bouldering partners!
This post really should be titled, "What I'm Thankful For," particularly in reference to climbing. The Friction Bouldering 2009 Series Finale was one of the best days of climbing I've ever had, not only because of the results, but because of the incredible support system I have and how it came about.

The comp was the last in a series of five that took place around the mid-Atlantic region, of which the last comp I did was also a part. It was hosted by the incredible Earth Treks Timonium gym in Maryland. I can't wait to get back down there and climb again. It's one of the best gyms I've ever been to for bouldering, and I have no doubt the other two Earth Treks gyms are the same. 

I drove down with two friends from Go Vertical and they dropped me off in Timonium and headed Columbia to check out another Earth Treks location. I met up with Paul (the guy with the giant, infectious smile in the shot above), an incredible boulderer and all-around great guy, another friend from Go Vertical. I love my little Philly climbing community, and can't believe how many incredible people I've met as a result of our mutual love for the sport. 

The comp went something like this:

  • The gym was divided into at least 10 sections, each with several problems of varying point values.
  • All climbs were peer judged, meaning you had to ask two people who'd seen you finish the problem sign off on your scorecard. There were no formal judges.
  • Each climb was assigned a point value, and to receive the full point value, you had to flash the problem. There was no scoring bonus for flashing.
  • If you didn't flash the problem, you recorded the number of falls and this tally was used to break ties.
  • There were no lines at each section, climbers just took turns trying out problems in their chosen section. I was amazed at how smoothly things went!
  • Climbers had four hours to complete the five hardest problems with the fewesr number of falls.
  • Each division, (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), was assigned a "money" problem. These problems were at least one grade above the highest grade a competitor in that division should have been able to complete. At the top was a $5 or $10 bill. The first in each division to complete the problem got the money.
  • Finals worked the same way the did in my previous post.
I was slightly nervous most of the day, but was glad to have a little more experience with comps and a handful of friends there. Just as the contest started, I got a note from Aleya, whom I'd chatted with on Twitter and had a chance to meet for the first time in person! She's every bit as fun and energetic as I thought she'd be, and I felt so lucky to have the chance to meet her. She was encouraging and supportive of everything I tried, even though we'd only met just as the comp started. She hadn't planned on competing, but couldn't resist trying a few problems anyway, and she did really well. She also introduced me to Chris Warner, and I did my best not to be starstruck. He's an incredibly accomplished alpinist and the founder of Earth Treks, Inc.

Over the course of the day, I tried a number of different types of problems, including several that were above my ability. I've learned the vibe at a gym can have a very positive affect on my climbing, and everyone there was so supportive and encouraging. Groups would yell for someone completing a 200-point problem or a 700-point problem, it didn't matter. I found the ratings to be a bit softer than my home gym, and was able to complete two 500-point problems and one 600-point problem. I finished the day with 2,475 points, an improvement over the last comp, even without the 10% bonus!

We had quite a strong representation from Philly watching finals - five of us total - and it was just as incredible as I expected. The encouragement from the crowd for every competitor was inspiring, and I hope I'll be able to compete in finals at a comp some day. All the problems were put up dead center in the gym and lit with spotlights. When finals began, the rest of the lights in the gym were switched off and the focus was entirely on the competitors. Talk about pressure! But what an incredible rush it must be.

My performance was good enough for 3rd place in my division, women's intermediate, and good enough for second place in my division in the series overall! I couldn't believe I placed in the series at all, seeing as I'd only been in two of the five comps. Despite the fact that 3rd out of the four women in my division might not be anything to write home about, it felt so incredible to have the Philly crowd cheering for me and to have accomplished more than I set out to do. I had a blast spending time with a handful of folks from the Philly gyms, all of whom I knew but had never really spent a ton of time with. Overall, it was an incredible day. Good time with great friends, a great support system of strangers, and some awesome climbing!

Things I'm Incredibly Thankful For in Climbing:

  • to have discovered the sport at all, and to have discovered bouldering
  • to have such an incredible support system from friends and other climbers, something I see every time I get on an indoor wall or outdoor rock
  • to have the chance to meet people like Aleya, echoing my sentiments from the #jtreetweetup
  • to be able to learn and improve my climbing, thanks to all the climbers I've met and spent time with!


Greg Pfeil said…
That's really awesome! Next year you can hit all of the comps, and you'll win the series – of course, you'll probably be so much better by then, that you'll be placing in the advanced division instead of intermediate :)

I'm curious about the scoring. At my comp, getting 2400 points would have meant you probably climbed three V4s and two V5s, and gotten you second place in the women's advanced division. I see three possibilities:
• the Friction Series doesn't use 100 points = 1 Vermin grade,
• the grades there are much softer, or
• Boston climbers are weak-ass compared to PA/MD.

Any guesses?
Katie said…
Well, I doubt it's the third bullet! I definitely think the grading was a bit soft, especially on the 610 pointer I flashed. Felt like a V3-V4. I didn't expect to do anything over 500 points. I'm normally a V3 boulderer at my home gym, but the grading there is a harder than every other gym I've been to, and inconsistent in my experience. It's all subjective, but relative too; the people who were supposed to win definitely did!
Greg Pfeil said…
I haven't been to Go Vertical yet (but I should be climbing there on Dec 29). However, judging from the gym I've been to in Doylestown, PA does have the hardest grading I've seen. I went to the Rockville Earth Treks once, and I do remember it being softer than MetroRock in Boston. So, my conclusion is:

Philly climbers are hard, and Maryland gyms are soft. We'll see how much of a smack-down I get at Go Vertical soon enough.
Greg Pfeil said…
Whoops – I'll be at Go Vertical on Dec 28 (not 29).
Aleya said…
Oh, and congrats on 2nd place!!!!!!
Aleya said…

I hadn't read this post yet. It was so great to meet you too and I can't wait to go to the Dacks next week!