If you have been following the Boulders blog on the BMC Youth Climbing Series, you will already know that Boulders took 18 of their junior Academy climbers to compete in the Welsh finals.
The week leading up to the finals in the Boulders Academy training classes involved some gentle climbing, stretching, a little bouldering and much positive talk. There were 18 climbers of various ages, for some of whom this was their first time at the Welsh final… eek! Most chat was centred around preparations, having a positive mental attitude, reading routes and not to forget their climbing kit! However, between parents it’s about where you’re staying, if you need to re-register your child and what time you have to be at the Beacon climbing centre on Saturday morning!
For most, the weekend started on Friday – some climbers having full, or half days off school – and some having to go the whole hog and wait until parents had finished work. Whichever it was, Friday turned out to be a perfect day for travelling the length of Wales.
With so many climbers competing from Boulders, an army of staff (well, almost) travelled up to north Wales for the Welsh final, all of which were voluntary. This required some planning – so as a Boulders staff member, as well as a mum of a competitor – I took it upon myself to rally and organise the troops! This, as the lead up progressed, included another climber and all of his family – the Souter’s, including Judith, mum of David, who runs Little Notes classes in the Boulders classroom.
So Friday 19th saw four members of staff, one very excited climber and Diesel the dog leave Boulders in the truck, armed with maps and directions – our destination, a camping barn run by a company called Bach Ventures, in Pentre Bach, just outside of Caernarfon, north Wales. The Souter family, with dad Will at the wheel, left not long after us.
The journey was fairly long, but as you may know the A470 is a beautiful route through the middle of Wales, passing through many quaint villages. It took us roughly four hours give or take, arriving at the barn at around 10pm.
The owner of the barn, Karen, met us as we arrived and promptly showed me where we were to sleep and the facilities. The barn is fantastic – it is basic, but brilliant – just what you need for a joint adventure! One tent went up – two members of Boulders staff decided to brave the still fairly cool spring temperatures and sleep under canopy. The rest of us unrolled our sleeping bags on mattresses in the top of the barn and that was once Nathan had removed the spider that was taking up residence on one of the mattresses!
The Souter family arrived not far behind us and we all quickly settled in, munched on pre-made bacon rolls and drank hot chocolate. Isn’t it funny how time quickly passes by when you’re sat chatting in a group… before we knew it, it was 11.15pm and we had two climbers competing the following day that really ought to get some sleep! By the time three excited boys stopped chatting, two mums stopped gossiping, Diesel the dog decided to settle down and with cries of “Goodnight Jim Bob” echoing around the rafters, we finally got to sleep.
Morning campers and camp barners!
Saturday morning dawned, early for me, as Diesel decided that an early morning start was in order – 5am to be precise! I didn’t mind, as the day dawned beautiful – the sun was shining and a low wind – just perfect for a day for climbing outside….. Oh, but we have to be inside today for the climbing competition!
As the rest of the happy campers emerged from the depths of their sleeping bags, breakfast in the form of Will Souter’s porridge was cooking away on the hob and lunch baguettes were being cooked in the oven. By the time everybody had been fed, we’d gone through 10 bowls of porridge, four eggs, two packs of bacon and several teabags!
The two competing climbers amongst us, Will and David, were starting to get nervous and the mums were starting to get nervous too! Climbing kit was checked by both mums, as it would be a disaster if anything was left behind.
Three car loads headed to the Beacon centre, a relatively new climbing wall in Caernarfon. The atmosphere was filled with nerves, excitement and awe – the Beacon centre’s tallest wall is 17 metres high – Wills said, “How am I going to get up there?!”
Once all of the Boulders Academy team had been located, Tym started them off with a warm-up and a prep talk. For some reason, all of our team seemed particularly nervous this time round… I think they all had really high expectations of themselves as climbers and of course the top three winners go through to represent Wales in the UK finals in June.
As all competitions throughout the UK are run the same, the competitors are put into their categories, given a belayer and a judge. The competition begins, with the girls bouldering first and the boys climbing first.
Each climber has three routes to climb and only get one chance at each of the routes. The young climbers also have three bouldering problems to tackle and three attempts at each problem. None of the routes or problems are graded. I think this is a really good idea and not just for the competitors, because I know from personal experience that if I am climbing and I know the grade of the route, I tend to talk myself out of it, telling myself there is no way I can do it. However, if there is no grade, there is nothing to stop you having a go. Routes are just marked with the category climbing it.
I played dual roles on the day: Mum and Boulders photographer. This meant I was able to wander round the whole competition doing what I do best – chatting, cheering and the occasional whoop whooping!
I think I say this every time, but I am in complete awe of our Academy climbers in the way they conduct themselves on the floor and the wall. They encourage each other, even across the centre, including those they are competing against from other climbing centres. They are a credit to not only themselves, to their instructors, but also to their parents.
By 3pm the competition was over, the scores were being counted and certificates written. It’s at this time that most of the climbers go off and have another go (not under pressure) on a problem they have already tried. Or they grab some well earned rest and food!
The results came in with all the competitors sat on the floor surrounded by mums, dads, siblings, coaches and anyone else that fancied listening in! The results were read and prizes given by Mark Dicken, the north Wales regional BMC co-ordinator. Whilst some competitors try to asses where they have come throughout the day, there are some surprises!
Each year, north and south Wales compete for a points trophy… this is a rather coveted trophy. Overall, Boulders entered 18 Academy climbers aged between the ages of 8 and 16. Of those, 12 from Boulders will be representing Wales in the UK finals in June. Oh, and the Welsh trophy has been brought back to the south!
We’d all been indoors all day and as the sun was shining, we decided to take some of the youngsters and their parents to the RAC boulders, an outdoor bouldering area, close to Snowdon. This was a fantastic opportunity for some of the kids to get their first taste of bouldering on real rock. Quote of the day from Dafydd, “It’s not coloured holds this, it’s real life stuff!” After a day climbing you’d think these kids would have no energy… how wrong was I, as I watched them scramble up the massive boulders!
On return to the barn, with extra people in tow (17 in total), Bimba and Judith had managed to cook a fantastic spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread! A lovely evening was had by all, with a real sense of climbing community and friends together and not one piece of technology in sight – just card games, card tricks and some good old fashioned rock, paper, scissors!
After a leisurely breakfast, pack and clean-up, our thoughts of going outside climbing were squashed by the inevitable Welsh weather, so we decided to head back to the Beacon centre. This gave Boulders climbing coaches, Tym and Nathan, a chance to test the competition routes themselves, try some new stuff and climb the amazing height that was on offer. It also gave the kids the chance to re-try routes or new routes, although there was some very tired boys and girls around!
A fantastic weekend was had by all and we’re already looking forward to the excitement of the UK finals less than 2-months away.”
Click here to read the full results of the BMC Youth Climbing Series Welsh final.
To view the full set of photos from the BMC Youth Climbing Series Welsh Final 2013, please click here.