Hey PG community!
Currently typing this from the cozy mountain town of Innsbruck, Austria. I’m here to train and support the youth climbers competing at the World Championships here over the next two weeks!
Over the course of the previous month, I’ve done a significant amount of travel around Europe for World Cup competitions, otherwise known as being on ‘The Circuit’. Following my trip to the Rocklands, I flew north to compete in the Bouldering World Cup in Munich, Germany, as well as the Lead World Cup in Arco, Italy. Both competitions were excellent learning experiences for me to test where my training is at right now and see what I need to work on for upcoming seasons.
At the first stop in Munich, I had the honor of staying and climbing alongside Kai Lightner, one of the top climbers in the US. We prepared for the competition by trying out some mock competition problems at Boulderwelt München. Most of the problems heavily featured holds shaped by European companies Cheeta and Squadra, which took some getting used to in order to successfully maneuver through them. Hopefully PG can snag some for future World Cup training preparation!
The World Cup itself was held in the Munich Olympic stadium, which is easily one of the most impressive competition venues I’ve ever been to. The huge stadium capacity as well as trademark glass roofing allows for an unparalleled viewing experience.
The morning of the competition dawned bright and early, with a 5:30am isolation call-time. As there were over 170 competitors, the category was split into two groups of 85 each. I climbed around 40th, which was fortunate since I didn’t need to spend too much time in the isolation area. I warmed up, threw on my competition shoes, and prepared to climb!
As I attempted the boulders, it became clear that the style of climbing favored a powerful, yet extremely technical style of climbing. One false step or false grip on a hold could send you tumbling onto the chalky mats below. I didn’t climb phenomenally, but definitely performed better than I was expecting, managing two bonus holds out of the five climbs in qualifiers. The experience as a whole was super rewarding and a great learning experience for the next one!
Following the Munich event, I had a couple days of training in Munich with Kai and another US Team athlete, Bobby Taft-Pittman. We got in some lead and speed sessions at the beautifully-designed gyms operated by the DAV (German Alpine Club) and got to explore the city as well.
Next up, Arco, Italy! Arco is by far my favorite town on earth. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Arco is home to the birthplace of modern competition climbing as we know it, beginning with the first Rock Master Festival in 1987. The town is also famous for its main pedestrian walkway, featuring nothing but climbing stores, pizza restaurants, and gelato shops down the entirety of the street. Pure. Heaven.
I’d competed in Arco once before at the 2011 World Championships, and this was my first competition at the legendary venue since then. Kai decided to skip this competition to better prepare for the Youth World Championships, so Bobby and I traveled down by train to Arco by ourselves, to then meet up with Shane Messer, another US athlete and coach. After a brief team meeting the night before the comp, we woke up for another early morning competition.
Unfortunately, my luck of going earlier in the running order in Munich didn’t hold for Arco, as Shane and I ended up going last and second to last in the running order, respectively. In the lead qualification, our score was determined by the multiplied rank of two separate routes, so performing well on one of them was essential to moving on to the semifinal round. My climbing on the first route was not so great, but I climbed much better on the second climb. My score was not good to move on to the semifinals, but I again learned a lot and feel more mentally prepared for the upcoming competitions!
I spent the remaining days in Arco eating pizza and gelato while cheering on my fellow competitors. The final duel event played out spectacularly, with Adam Ondra and Julia Chanourdie winning a speed/lead showcase that pitted climbers against each other on 5.13b/8a routes on the 70’ tall walls that were climbed in under 60 seconds!
After the competition in Arco drew to a close, I took the train back up to Innsbruck, where I’ll be staying for the next two weeks to train and watch the Youth World Championships. Several PG youth athletes will be competing, and I’ll be sure to cheer them and the rest of the US Team on!
Stay tuned, these young crushers are the next generation of the sport and you will no doubt hear more about them in the upcoming weeks.
Guest Post by PG Athlete Josh Levin. Munich photos courtesy of Sheila McCarron, Kai and Josh photo courtesy of Linda Lee, and Arco photos courtesy of Josh Levin.