Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Vertical in Montreal

Sometimes I'm taken aback by the bruises, cuts and contusions that accumulate from a hard-fought Tour de Bloc competition. Hours after the adrenaline rush of participating has worn off, I'm left wondering, "How the heck did that happen?!"

Medium rare, please
This weekend I went to Gonflé à Bloc, a TdB session held at Vertical in Montreal. The first layer of skin on the pads of my fingers was scraped right off! I also wound up with a sore ankle, a dime-sized scab on my elbow, and matching abrasions on both wrists. Plus there were the usual aches, pains, and sore spots all over my body.

Obviously, I had a great time!

Exuding a certain inexplicable Gallic flair...

The trip was a spur of the moment decision; Mr. Jeremy Dowsett, the proprietor of Climbing Hold Review, invited me to attend, and even more generously permitted me to crash at his place for the weekend. I could hardly refuse such liberal kindness, so I hopped onto the train forthwith Friday evening, and settled onto his couch for an overnight nap prior to the comp (thanks as well to Ev and the two cats!).

David and Suzuki battling at dawn for feline sumo supremacy

Despite a precarious morning snow-storm in the City of Mary, the CHR team managed to arrive at Vertical (close to Station Angrignon on the Metro) well before the start of the morning kickoff. Since the last time I was there a year ago, Vertical has added an entire new wall and completely replaced their front bouldering area. The square footage of available bouldering surface is impressive. The setters put up 60 problems for this competition!

Yours truly on 25 (brown tape) - The end sequence to the finish using the green hemisphere was tricky. This problem wasn't ranked high enough to make it onto my top six, but I was glad I tried (and sent!) this one. Observe the orange CHR t-shirt; photo courtesy of J. Dowsett

I had a decent outing. The problem setting was varied and enjoyable -- it felt like there was a little bit of everything, so if there was something I didn't want to do, it wasn't a deal-breaker if I didn't work it or even skipped it altogether.

The best part of a bouldering comp is finding the 'nemesis' problem -- something that is set right at that flickering, wavering limit of what I can persuade my body to physically accomplish on a given day. Attempting those sorts of problems is always the highlight of a comp, and is definitely worthy of attention. It's invaluable as part of the search for self-discovery. You don't know what you can do, until you push to the edge -- and sometimes, you fall off!

42 (blue tape) was the difference between Open climbers and me. They could send it; I couldn't (and neither could any of the other Experienced climbers). 38 (brown tape) had a muscular horizontal sequence that you could secretly skip.

I had about 5 serious attempts on problem 42. I had everything dialled in -- except for the move to the finish hold, which was simply too strong or too technical for me. The penultimate hold was troublingly mediocre. The key seemed to be using the right heel hook to pull in the hips rightward and up -- which I couldn't do. I could get the hook, and pull in slightly, but not quite far enough to stably stick the finish with my right hand. Ah well. Practice makes perfect!

Part of the new bouldering wall at Vertical. You can see the end of 41 (green holds), an overhung crimper-fest with a blind throw to the second last hold.

I deviated considerably from my desired event strategy. I was intimidated by the large number of overhanging walls, so I did a few too many intermediates in order to get warmed up and build up some confidence. I'm sure I wasted some time at the beginning. If you take too long monkeying around with the easy stuff, you risk not leaving any juice for the hard ones.

37 (green tape) - deceptive leftwards traverse on crimpers

I was also side-tracked by a couple of problems in their cave, neither of which I completed. I had the presence of mind to abandon the area promptly following a few draining attempts. I was feeling pretty pumped out a couple of hours in.

30 was long! In both the 'it has many moves' sense as well as the 'you need a high ape index' sense. Apparently 45 was about the same difficulty, just with poorer feet. I got smacked around and left promptly without wasting too much energy.

As I've mentioned before, my goal for the season is to improve sufficiently to sincerely enter into Open. I'm still battling it out in the Experienced category right now. If I could have landed 42 that would have made a huge difference to me. I'm not disappointed because I did legitimately try my hardest on it. I might have sent it on a stronger day; who knows?

36 (red tape) was burly but fun. Brute force and ignorance was sufficient to complete it.

The organization -- at least for the morning section -- was great, and everybody involved deserves a huge thank you for putting on such a pleasurable event. Apparently there was a controversy regarding the final results for the Open category, which is unfortunate; I hope they're able to sort things out to everyone's satisfaction. My personal experience was fantastic. Facilities, registration, instructions, crowd management, announcements and awards -- all were well done during the morning time slot for men's experienced. My sole complaint would be that the padding in certain areas was a bit sketchy. I took one hard fall on my rump at a spot where there was a small gap between the pads; luckily I wasn't injured or overly shaken up.

It's a pity that Vertical is so far away from where I live; I would have loved to return and session some of the harder problems. 

Results (mens exp) - w00t! The margin of victory was slim indeed.

Other memorable problems I encountered at Vertical can be found here. If you're in the Montreal area, I heartily recommend a visit. It's clear a lot of effort went into the setup of the gym.

Listening to Grand Admiral Thrawn's devious scheme for Galactic domination on the way home.

Lastly, I had a chance to spend some time hanging out with noted climber Dustin Curtis and Michelle Day; they provided me with a swift ride back home that was much appreciated. Thanks Dustin and Michelle! Thank you once again Jeremy and ClimbingHoldReview for your hospitality, without which I wouldn't have had the opportunity to enjoy this whole experience.