Bristol was chosen to host the finals of the BMC/MCofS Junior Boulder Cup 2015, with the event being hosted at Bloc.
I spent some time getting an insight into the fascinating pre- and post-event processes behind putting on such an event, and of course a crucial part of this process is the route setting. Although Bloc was chosen as the venue for the competition, the route-setting and logistical organisation was handled entirely by the BMC.
To an extent, the success (or failure) of these sort of events can be accredited to the quality of route-setting, and it is often the case that governing bodies such as the BMC and MCofS will assign their own choice of route-setters for each event to be sure that the quality is kept high.
Yann Genoux and Alex Fry are the chosen route-setters of the BMC Youth and Junior series finals, and they kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.
Here is an insight into what it takes to test the ultra-strong British Bouldering youth.
Callum: When setting for the Youth and Juniors, what are your main differences between setting for younger people and setting a regular competition?
Yann: There isn’t so much difference in the process for me really. Obviously, the level will be a bit easier than for the seniors and I will be careful to not set reachey moves for the younger categories, but the Youth A and Junior categories are often taller than me so I don’t have to hold back!
Alex: As far as youth A and junior are concerned, other than the standard being lower there is no real difference in style, reach etc between them and the seniors. Many of the youth B boys and girls are as tall or taller than me and Yann, and many of the better juniors regularly compete, (and do well), in the senior events. With the younger competitors you have to take in to account that they are a bit smaller so sequences will be different. Because they are so light they tend to have very strong fingers and will match on little crimps a lot, so you have to take that into account; but they also tend to lack the raw power of the older competitors and are not so good on slopers or moves that require good core and shoulder stability.
Callum: Do you set blocs with the same characteristics at every centre that the Youth and Junior championship visits? Or do you try to set new and different styles each round?
Yann:No, I don’t set the same each rounds I am setting at. I try to set as big a variety as possible, plus each wall has different angles, which makes it easier to produce a good range of different styles of problems.
Alex: There are certain characteristics that you want in a comp in general. You want the blocs to cover a range of styles, some slabs, some overhangs, some roofs, some dynamic problems, some weirdness etc. You also want the blocs to have a certain amount of insecurity, so that if you make a mistake your off – we saw a lot of kids who have bouldered up to V13 on rock falling off V4’s in the qualifiers! But other than that it will always be a bit different. To some extent you can only work with what you have and every centre is a bit different and has a different hold selection so to try and create exactly the same thing wouldn’t work.
Callum: What are the main considerations in the how to set the qualifiers? What is the aim?
Yann:For the qualifiers, the aim is to split all competitors and it is not so important if a problem doesn’t get topped. I try to set a progression in difficulty ranging from not-so-bad to quite hard with a good mix of styles.
Alex: Well the main aim is to test the competitors in a variety of styles so that they have to perform well in every aspect of climbing, and ideally have a complete split before you go into finals so that you can go to count back if necessary, which in turns means the finals don’t necessarily have to be quite as hard and maybe have a few more tops which is better for the crowd.
Callum: On the day of the finals, what are your worst fears?
Yann: If all the finalist have been split from the qualifiers, then it is not so stressful. But if not, the fear is to not be able to seperate them in only 3 problems. But I will try my best to set the finals to put on a good show, be spectacular and fun to climb!
Alex: So one of the worst fears would be loads of ties in qualification which actually happened in the youth C girls on the day of the comp! (Due to a logistical error on my part I had allocated them some of the wrong problems and missed their hardest ones out so their qualification was too easy – almost the entire morning on the first day of setting is spent just planning where things are going to go as the JBBC is effectively a two day comp done in a day). This then means that you only have 3 problems to split a large group of competitors and your finals may overrun as there are too many competitors that have gone through. Fortunately we managed to sort it out with some last minute tweaks! I guess the other fear is just that the finals are too easy/too hard and everyone ties.
Callum: Take us through the general notes and processes that you have nailed before the finals so that it all goes to plan.
Yann:I will always set them as drop-able as possible. Out of balance, tricky … but always have the options of holds so I can make the problems easier or harder by swapping a hand or foot hold.
Alex: Hard to put all of that into a short sentence to be honest. Effectively we do a full day of planning, two long days of setting, and another full day of logistical work taping problems, marking and stripping finals etc, (so four days work), but we only have two days to do it.
Callum: Looking back on this Saturday, what do you think went well? What do you think could have been improved?
Yann: This past Saturday went all pretty well I think, in exception of girls Youth C category. We underestimated their ability as they change every year, and set the qualifier way too easy for them, which gave us 9 finalists instead of 6. Then the finals were slightly too easy again for the 2 best girls, so we needed a super-final to split them, which luckily worked well.
Alex: Well I would have improved the problem allocation for youth c girls as mentioned above! The knock on effect of that mistake is that because it has become critical to get a stand alone result in the finals there is a risk that some of the other aspects, like keeping the crowd entertained and giving the climbers a fun time can be compromised a bit. Having said that I think it went well in the end and I was really pleased with the youth A and junior qualification and finals, I thought these went really well and the final blocs were really entertaining.
Callum: Why do you think the BMC chose you to set for the series?
Yann:Hard to say really! Because I am very passionate about it, and I always look for a way to improve it!
Alex: Maybe everyone else was busy!?
If you were lucky enough to be there on Saturday then you would have seen that the final blocs were truly spectacular and definitely hard enough. Yann and Alex worked like dogs for the entire 3 day period to make the BMC Junior and Youth Championships a memorable event. The quality of route-setting plays a key role in ensuring that climbing indoors is fun, safe, and develops the relevant skills to help you climb harder outside.
BCS would like to give a huge thank you to Yann and Alex for helping to further establish Bristol as the key destination for British competition climbing, and can we express our appreciation to the BMC for bringing the spotlight to Bristol.
We hope that this short insight into the route-setter’s program during an event has increased your understanding of the hard work and considerable thought that is required to make indoor climbing possible.
Edit 4/7/15: We incorrectly stated that Yann and Alex had set for the entire series. Now corrected, please accept our apologies.