I stood behind the boulder, behind the two climbers puzzling over the boulder. Their puzzlement was interspersed with suddenly leaps into action, attempts to make a seemingly impossible leap from one not-so-generous hold about 10 feet an overhang to another modest hold perhaps 10 feet away. Interspersed with those unsuccessful attempts was the occasional bad word muttered under their breath. After each unsuccessful leap — known as a “dyno” in climbing circles — after they’d picked themselves up off the crash pad they would sidle up to a guy in a full black beard, jeans and a black jacket with a USA Climbing patch on the back.
“You need to try and grab the hold … this way,” USA Climbing guy said, displaying the exact handhold necessary to stick the hold. And it was the exact way: This guy, a Level 3 routesetter for USA Climbing, has set enough climbing routes over the years to be able to eye a move and know exactly what specifically it would take to land the move. He was in town to apply his years of routesetting experience to the 14-foot-high, 3,000-square foot “boulder” in the Triangle Rock Club that will be the site of Saturday’s Raleigh Rampage bouldering competition.
“We’ll have climbers here from Richmond to Columbia South Carolina,” said a bleary-eyed and apparent No Shave November participant Scott Gilliam, the Triangle Rock Club’s chief routesetter. Although the 56 routes to be used in Saturday’s competition must be set by a Level 3 USA Climbing-certified routesetter, which Gilliam is not, he’d been working pretty much non-stop this week to help get the boulder ready. “I’ve slept 14 hours since Sunday,” Gilliam offered Thursday evening. “I’ve only had two caffeinated beverages today.”
Although there will be competition in the mortal division — officially referred to as the Citizen’s Session — it’s the competitive USAC session that’s the big draw. About 80 top boulderers from around the region will square off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with finals held from 3-4 p.m. The finals are worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity and appreciate true athleticism. The top 3 to 5 finishers in each category will have 3-5 minutes to solve each of three “problems” — especially challenging routes dreamed up by the USA Climbing guy. They’ll involve moves like the one he was trying to explain to the two climbers above.
Like that move, but not that specific move.
All around the boulder Thursday night were posted advisories: “This part of boulder CLOSED to Rampage COMPETITORS.” While competitors couldn’t touch, they could at least look, which created the curious spectacle of competitors staring motionless for minutes at a time at a particular route. They’d stare, heads cocked like confused cocker spaniels, then begin what appeared to be mime routines, slowly moving their hands to emulate the moves they’ll use Saturday.
Come to check out the competitive session and who knows, you might be compelled to enter the Citizens’ Session, which runs from 6-8 p.m. ($25 to enter). The Citizens’ Session comes with an added perk: there’s beer afterward. Gilliam emphasized the “afterward” part.
“You’ll get one wrist bracelet to compete,” he said. “When you’re done, we’ll clip that bracelet off and give you a beer bracelet.”
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