Gripped’s Noah Walker reports on the finals at the Canadian National Bouldering Championships at Altitude Gym in Ontario.
A darkened warehouse greets 12 of Canada’s best boulderers. As hundreds of spectators cram themselves, shoulder-to-shoulder, into Altitude Gym in an effort to catch a glimpse of the nation’s strongest climbers. MC Dustin Curtis roars into his microphone.
The athletes appear focused. Each will seek to find their own beta that will take them to the top. Exchanging notes, they return to isolation to wait for their turn. The round is about to begin.
Down on the mats, Canadian national athlete Allison Vest stands alone. With her back to the crowd, she leaps into the start position of women’s one. Twin flat-hold under-clings dig into her thumbs. Her feet smear against the sloped angles of Altitude’s FIT volumes. She drives in, and the style changes. What began as a technical slab turns to a drive-bye swing to a press. She picks up the under-cling and goes, sticking her left hand on an in-cut crimp before swinging off.
Vest rests before going again. She completes the sequence, sticking the zone, a slopey under-cling just to the right of the crimp. Once more, the style changes and she is back on the mats. What was once a slab, and then a drive-bye, concludes as a technical mantle. The complicated style of the problem does well to summarize the previous rounds’ boulder problems. A tough qualification round followed by a difficult semi-final wore athletes out. On her third burn, Vest completes problem one, but not before her skin splits on a tiny crimp before the finish.
Having qualified in sixth, Vest waits for the remainder of her category to finish. Competitor follows competitor as each tries their luck at the first problem. For a moment it appears as though women’s one is the easy climb. Justine McCarney, fifth place qualifier, also finishes the problem. The remainder of the category cannot complete the mantle. The athletes return to isolation. The warehouse darkens.
Before long, the lights are up and Vest is on women’s two. Looking more sure of herself, the 2018 champion knows that it is her competition to lose. She recognizes her leading position. Ontario climber Madison Fischer waits on deck, knowing a power problem will soon present itself. Balancing between volumes, Vest pumps her way through the initial sequence, catching her swing on a poor sloper. Ascending thin jibs to the finish, her feet slope out underneath her, but she is shortly at the top of the wall.
After sustaining an injury during last year’s Bouldering Nationals, Vest knows that this competition is hers to lose. With a win in 2018, and her main domestic opponents Alannah Yip and Indiana Chapman absent from the competition, there is a pressure to perform.
With two tops, Vest takes a lead over her competitors. First place qualifier Riley Galloway and fourth place qualifier Paige Boklaschuk each complete women’s two as well. Madison Fischer and Justine McCarney walk away with the zone.
Women’s three goes unsent for the field. Vest, Fischer and Boklaschuk each take a zone. With two tops, Vest looks strong going into the final problem. Needing only a zone to win, Vest enters the arena. Vying for her title, Alberta boulderer Paige Boklaschuk retains the capacity to win with a top of women’s four, if Vest fails to make the zone.
Stepping up to her final problem, Vest is methodical. Taking her time, she lays out a small towel with which she’ll wipe her shoes. Three points on a pyramidal box and a right hand on crimp, Vest locks off to the first hold.
Latching a fiberglass sloper, she goes feet first to a blue Cheeta. Recoiling, Vest returns to the sloper with an alternate plan. Leaping, she skips the Cheeta with her right hand and reaches for a large white Squadra volume. Gaining a small amount of purchase on the feature, she flips her left hand, almost catching her swing on the Cheeta. Flying off, she is back on the pads.
Chalking up, Vest gives a tentative second go before returning to Earth. Confident in her beta, Vest flies through the opening sequence, catching the compression swing with ease. Stabbing her foot out right, Vest sets a kneebar and presses into the top most sequence. Establishing on twin under-clings, the national athlete secures her zone, the win, and the top all within a matter of seconds.
As the round progresses, Fischer claims second position with the only other top of women’s four. Boklaschuk finishes in third. Though the women’s category all but concluded with Vest’s reaching the zone on women’s four, the men’s competition is only just beginning to heat up.
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What a RIDE 🤯 So stoked to take home the title tonight at the 2020 Bouldering National Championships! We have some badass, strong, and scrappy gals in this country. It’s exciting to compete in an event when it truly is anyone’s game. Turns out, sneaking into finals in 6th and being the first one out of iso lowered the pressure enough to make it all click for me today. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The night was made exponentially better by fellow @hiveclimbing athlete @guymcnamee (who I have the absolute pleasure of coaching) winning his first Open Bouldering title!! So proud of you Guy! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Finally, thanks to @corechristian and @jeffreywthomson for being the best coaches a girl could ask for and to everyone and anyone who makes events like these run. We so appreciate you. #liveclimbrepeat #hiveclimbing @blackdiamond @hiveclimbing And thanks for the vid @matt.chapman.17!!!
After a startling few rounds, the men’s field is varied. Canadian national athlete Seb Lazure retired from the competition early to battle food poisoning, while the remainder of the field had at least two zones. Of those with zones, four either flashed or sent men’s two, whereas men’s one and three went unsent. With athletes like Sean McColl and Jason Holowach not competing in this year’s competition, an opportunity arose for the varied field of competitors.
First out for the men, a young Jaxson MacDonald begins sussing out the exceptionally steep men’s Four. With a flash of men’s two, MacDonald enters the last boulder problem in first place. Starting spider-man style, MacDonald faces the crowd, pressing hard into his right hand. Unable to figure out the sequence, he falls.
Chalking, he is back on the wall before he is quickly returned to the mats. With 20 seconds to go, he pulls on, new beta in hand. He dead points to the corner of a massive conical volume, bicycling his left hand before matching the volume. Squeezing between his left hand and a toe-hook, MacDonald reaches back into a the new XCULT Monster 1. The dual-texture fiberglass monstrosity holds him for a moment before he times out, just short of the zone.
The lights darken, and the holds are brushed for the next competitor. Finn Battersby steps to the mats as chalk falls from the freshly brushed volumes. Much like MacDonald, Battersby cannot push through the intricate sequence.
With 30 seconds on the clock, and a top from men’s two, Battersby pulls into the same crowd-facing stance MacDonald originally tried. Leaping, Battersby jumps out of his press to catch double gastons, split between the giant conical volume and the Monster 1 volume. Getting his feet high, the tall man pulls hard with a left heel, from a matched position on the XCULT, just missing the next volume and ending his round.
With two athletes left in contention, the energy could only build. Defending champion Zach Richardson entered the field just as confused as the previous competitors. After attempting an incredibly powerful match on the highest starting hold, Richardson sought a more controlled beta.
Pressing, Richardson makes his way through the first sequence, controlling himself on the XCULT. Setting a knee bar, Richardson leans in to move to the zone before his knee pops. Hips swinging, he catches himself on the volume, and resets the knee-bar.
Reaching to a gaston press on a screw-on crimp, he establishes the zone. In the lead, Richardson reaches further to the volume, squeezing his fingers between two conical FIT volumes near the top of the overhang. Using the screw-on as a thumb-catch, Richardson moves to catch the next volume before falling popping off the wall. With 40 seconds left, he pulls back on the wall, racing to reach the top. Flying effortlessly through the first sequence, Richardson dead-points to the volume before the finish but he cannot hold the swing.
Arms crossed, 17-year-old Guy McNamee awaits his turn. Facing the wall, McNamee immediately attempts to jump for the conically shaped volume. Knowing that no one has come close to flashing, he recognizes that he has a couple of attempts before his movements push him further from first place.
Utilizing the same beta as Batterby, McNamee catches the double gaston between the giant FIT volume and the XCULT to his right. Lifting his feet high, he sets a kneebar like Richardson, before reaching the zone. Sliding his fingers between the two volumes, McNamee catches the blocked volume and statics the move to the gaston that stumped Richardson.
Pressing with his right foot to do so, McNamee releases the tension to match the left-hand mid swing. Pausing, the B.C. climber sets his feet and joins Vest atop the podium. As each athlete works directly with Coach Christian Core, this result represented a team win for the B.C. climbers. For full results click here. To watch Finals click here.
1. Allison Vest / Guy McNamee
2. Madison Fischer / Zach Ricahrdson
3. Paige Boklaschuk / Jaxson Macdonald