Every year, GB Climbing organise a series of great climbing competitions across a spectrum of abilities, from seven-year-olds getting their first taste of comps to seniors battling it out to be crowned national champions. But did you ever wonder how to get involved? Zoe Spriggins, competitions programme manager at GB Climbing, tells Niall Grimes how.
If anyone is out there and is looking to start competitions, where would they look?
The Youth Climbing Series (YCS) is our entry-level competition. The YCS has been running for years and it is a great event. Loads of fun, loads of passion, and it feels the first step into the world of proper climbing competition.
It is open to anyone (who is a BMC member) and is extremely popular and aims to give people exposure to the competition format from a young age. It started out as a grassroots event but over recent years, as interest in competitions has grown and as the standard of climbing has gone up, we have seen the level of performance increase. It’s pretty competitive now: in categories D and E you could be top-roping a 5 but by the time you get to Youth A the routes can be at 7b and 7c level!
It runs on five categories from Youth A (seven-year olds) up to Youth A (17-year olds). It is held in 32 venues across England and Wales. Ireland and Scotland run their own regional rounds and we all come together for the grand final. Between England and Wales, we have split the area up into eight different regions. In each region we hold two boulder rounds, two lead rounds (although the two youngest categories top rope).
The top three in each round go through to the final. In the final each age category means you will have the chance of being crowned Youth Climbing Series Champion.
Paraclimbing has its own series which we run also in conjunction with Wales and Scotland.
WATCH: The BMC Junior British Bouldering Championships 2019
For senior climbers, aged seventeen and over, what are we looking at in terms of competitions?
At a higher level we have the British Bouldering Championships (BBCs) and British Lead Climbing Championships (BLCCs) at both junior and senior level. These are among the coolest events in the climbing calendar. The events attract the best in the country as they jockey for position as the British champion and a whole host of other climbers: dark horses, young hopefuls and others just wanting to climb on world-class routes and rub shoulders with the stars.
Again, these comps are open to anyone (like the YCS, you have to be a BMC member to enter). These are becoming ever more popular and the interest in this year’s BBCs for both men and women was a huge increase over previous years.
WATCH: The BMC British Bouldering Championships Finals 2021
Any changes on the competition horizon?
We are looking to change it up over the next year, working closely with Ireland and Scotland, consulting with athletes etc, to create what we think will be a better programme of events. We are doing a series of four lead and boulder events before the international season. These will take the form of a lead and boulder series for Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England giving all the competitors a chance to travel and a chance to sample walls and setting away from home.
Apart from competitors, who else might be interested?
It seems like a crazy answer, but spectators are a really important aspect of our comps. If you get a great crowd you tend to get a great comp, as they are the thing above all that sets the atmosphere. If you enjoy climbing, I’d advise anyone to come along to watch at the YCS or British Championships. It’s a unique experience, cheering people on, seeing the successes and failures. It’s lots of fun.
WATCH: The BMC British Lead Climbing Championships
Are there any opportunities to get involved, beyond competing?
Absolutely, all these competitions are amazing opportunities to volunteer and get involved. The volunteers can make or break an event, having enough people with the right skills. But not only are they necessary, volunteering itself is a great experience and something I have done lots of. Mostly these are judges, but sometimes belaying. You can get trained up and get involved in the comp in a very special way, feel part of a team, give some support back. If you feel passionate about the sport and want to support young people, it’s very rewarding. At things like the YCS you can make a real difference.
All sounds great. When do they happen and how can we find out more?
In normal years (outside Covid), the YCS runs over the winter, from September to November, and the BBCs in July and BLCCs in November . Obviously, things have been disrupted of late but we are hopefully going to head back towards that timetable again soon.
For anyone interested in competing, spectating or volunteering, the best thing to do is to register here, and we will keep you up to date with any upcoming events in your area. If you haven’t been to one of our competitions before, then what are you waiting for?
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GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland and Secur-it. The GB Ice Climbing Team is supported by Montane. Many UK walls also support the GB Climbing through free or subsidised entry.