Competition Climbing: is it for me?

If you are immediately not intrigued by the title of this post I can probably assume that competition climbing is not for you, or, you are already aware of your feelings on the subject. Answering this question is actually not that important with climbing – which is the beauty of the sport. You can climb just as hard recreationally as you could in competitions, albeit without the prizes. A checklist just won’t do with this subject, so instead, I will guide you through what it looks like to commit yourself to competitions. If you one day go on to win a title, any title, any title at all, I need you to mention me in your thank you speech. Oh, and send me half your winnings. Much appreciated!

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My first time ever in Open Finals a few years ago. It was at a Tour de Bloc competition at our local gym. I was absolutely terrified and uncomfortable. Not much has changed!! (jk)

There are all types of climbers. People who climb several times a week, once a week, once a month or even just whenever they feel like it! If you love climbing and you enjoy trying hard, it doesn’t really matter where you are in your climbing journey. Any person can just up and decide to do competitions – it’s just that easy (at least, that’s how it is in Canada)! The financial burden is there, but if you work hard and do a great job, maybe eventually your gym help you out a bit. Or even better, you land yourself a sweet sponsorship. I’ll take a cut of that as well – you can contact my people. 😉

If you’ve been climbing for about a year and are still relatively new to the sport, you’re in luck, you can still travel and compete! 99% of the competitions you attend will have either beginner or intermediate categories, or a fun competition after the big comp. If I could go back in time, I would have travelled to more “away” comps when I was still new to the game. Just being at these competitions is motivating. I’m part of a small climbing community in New Brunswick, with only a small fraction of climbers who actually compete. Going to comps in Quebec and Ontario is eye opening because you get to see how strong and technical climbers can be and how terrible and ill-prepared you are (at first). So, if you’re new, find some friends and go on a road trip! Half the fun is just messing around with your friends anyway.

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A National Qualifier competition at Centre d’Escalade Delire in Quebec City.

If you want to get serious about competition climbing and would like to enter the “big girl” categories, you’ll have to start training. Unfortunately, there’s just no way around it. You’ll still progress with just climbing, but not as quickly as you did during your first couple of years climbing. You’ll start to plateau, and without training, you’ll be lagging behind fellow competitors who are training to speed up their progress. Training can be quite fun. Some days I absolutely dread taking time away from actual climbing to lift weights and put them down, but most days I love it. Grab some friends, or become friends with competition climbers, and train, train, train! I offer some beginner training guides here to get you started, but after awhile you will have to start focusing on your weaknesses.

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A fun competition at Seven Bays Bouldering in Halifax. We love going to their comps.

I love competitive climbing for a few reasons:

  • It allows me to travel and visit new cities and climbing gyms.
  • It gives me a reason to train and step out of my comfort zone. Without it, I don’t think I would have the right motivation.
  • I love the sense of community I feel at comps with both my team and my competitors. Everyone is helping each other – I could be working on a route with someone I’ve never met and we’re both pushing each other and sharing beta.
  • I have so much fun! And that’s really the whole point, isn’t it?
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Nationals 2016 at the Hive in Vancouver. Still wearing all black, and looking exactly the same only slightly meaner.

Anyone can become a competition climber, but it’s okay if it’s just not for you. Try some local comps at your gym and get the feel of it. Keep in mind that you might feel really insecure at your first couple, but don’t let that discourage you. We all went through that phase, but the feeling passes the more you compete and the more you get used to having people watch you climb (which gets to everyone – especially me).

TL;DR: If going to competitions interests you in the slightest, regardless of how nervous or ill-prepared you feel, do it anyway. You never know if you’ll enjoy it until you try it! And, most competitions have door prizes so you’ll never have to buy a new chalk bag ever again! If that’s not convincing, I can’t help you.

As always, I encourage you to comment any questions or comments you have below! 🙂

Climb on xx




2 thoughts on “Competition Climbing: is it for me?

  1. Thank you for expressing your thoughts. It all sounds very encouraging and motivating) However, for me competition climbing is not really that bright and easy: crowds on festivals scare me?, talking to unfamiliar climbers feels uncomfortable and making it to the finals is nearly impossible because of competing with so many better athletes.
    Also, I think that there is a blurry border between an athlete training mainly for competitions and an average person who participates in local fests just for fun.
    (Honestly, I don’t have a structured opinion, just an eager to write a comment?)

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