Nu Kids Masters
The last few competitions at Highball, I have run the Isolation. It is a small role, mainly involving me walking about with a clipboard, being friendly to the competitors and eating their flapjack. But I take pride in it and I regard it as 'my' gig (no one else wants to do it.)
But I will not be doing it for the Nu Kids Masters this weekend. That is because I have fucked up and qualified for the final.
I entered on a whim, because Annie Vanstone was signing people up on her last night of working before heading out on maternity leave to produce a brand new climber from scratch.
Before I go further: Mike reckons people still don't know what the Nu Kids comp. is about. It is a competition for people climbing low to mid-grades. If you get too many points, you get knocked out, or Top Gunned. Which is worth the Two Quid entry fee to find out. Therefore shit hot climbers can't just enter and win, they get top-gunned and the field is open for mid-grade climbers to catch some glory and cash prizes.
The previous year, I didn't enter the Nu Kids Masters. In my arrogance I reckoned I would just get top-gunned. Then I saw who DIDN'T get top-gunned, people like Chris Alexander and Ollie Bayliss, and I knew I wasn't better than them. I should have entered, they could have beaten me in front of the crowd which I would have fucking deserved.
This year, I again decided I wouldn't enter. I have been doing a proper periodised training program, because I have ambitions to climb hard outside, especially on Welsh Slate. Therefore I reckoned I would just get top-gunned, in my arrogance. So I reckon, why not? Enter, get top-gunned, then run isolation. Added bonus, Our Lass will probably let me come out for an extra night's climbing if I say I have entered a competition...
So obviously, my plan hits a flaw. The set of problems is really good, and also really spread out. I get some surprises, about five or six of the problems are really hard. I also critically drop some points through easy mistakes. I fail to read one problem properly. It uses a volume for your starting foot, but I try to campus it and plunge off, three points dropped.
Some other points I drop through ethics. This is important because qualifying rounds are self-scored. If you accidentally put your foot on the wrong colour, it isn't okay to keep going because it was just an accident. It is up to you to get off and try again, and lose the points. I do this twice. Ethics is important in climbing because there aren't -really- many rules. It usually boils down to being brutally honest - like, really fucking honest- about what you have done, and not damaging rock outdoors.
By the end of the night, I have had a good time and feel like I have climbed well. Loads of the problems have been pretty easy, but everything has been good quality. The atmosphere has been really good as well, you haven't had too much of the self-pressured embarrassing competition that leads to people - knobs - punching the walls when they fail to live up to their self-imposed high standards. At a local climbing comp, rather than Flatanger.
Everyone is really into it, taking it seriously, and the quality of climbing is pretty high. Loads of young kids are doing well. I envy them finding something so good, so young. Everyone is supportive, sharing beta, handing out compliments and generally being nice to each other.
Towards the end, people are queueing for a few of the harder problems, especially on problem#2 a cluster of awkwardly small pebbles on a slab. Everyone takes their turn, even with the pressure of the last scrabble for points.
The end of the night looms. I have got a load of flashes, a load of points, I see Tom Smith and show him my card.
'Do you know what the cut off is for top gun? I should be top gunned on 238, right?'
'I know exactly what the score is,' he says 'You're in the final.'
'You're going to need someone else to run isolation then.'
'Shit,' he says as his face freezes.
I am glad I entered. Once again, my run away ego has hit the end of its leash - at 238 points- and that is healthy. Tomorrow I am going to turn up, head out and try my hardest. I will have to, because there isn't be a fag-papers difference in ability between me and the other finalists. So much will come down to circumstance, nerves, and tactics under pressure. Plus quantity of flapjack eaten.