We are gearing up for our biggest event of the year: our annual turn to host the national Tour de Bloc bouldering series. Our competition will be held Saturday March 10th, and we want to make sure all our customers know what this event is about, and how it affects our operations. Those planning to compete can find more information here.
The Tour de Bloc is a national series of bouldering competitions that runs from November through April. There are Local competitions across the country, Regional championships for the Atlantic, Eastern (Ontario & Quebec) and Western regions, and the National championships, to be held this year in Edmonton on the weekend of April 14th & 15th. Our competition is the final Local event of the season, leading to Eastern Regionals in Hull on March 24th. For the best adult climbers in the country, competing in the Open category, and the best young climbers, competing in a range of Youth categories, these competitions are where they accumulate the points used to select the Canadian National Climbing Teams. National team members travel around the world to represent Canada in World Cup competitions throughout the spring and summer each year. We expect that many of those who compete at our comp will go on to make the National team.
So there will be a lot of the top climbers competing at our gym on March 10th, but the Tour de Bloc competitions (or “comps”) are not just for elite climbers. In addition to the Open and Youth categories, there is an Experienced category (for pretty good climbers who are not quite ready to vie for a spot on the national team), and a Recreational category, for those who just want to have fun climbing and challenging themselves. If you can do some/many of our yellow tape boulder problems, you are good enough to have a blast in the Rec category, and will find enough problems that you can succeed at to keep you busy for the 3 hour climbing period. We encourage all of you to consider coming out to compete (or to “compete”, as the case may be), as it’s a very fun, social event, and not as intimidating as you might think.
The climbing times for different categories are spread out throughout the day, to avoid overcrowding. The Youth categories climb from 8:30-11:30 in the morning, then the Open category, and finally the Recreational and Experienced categories later in the afternoon. Each group will be faced with a lot of boulder problems (typically about 60), numbered roughly in order of difficulty. Harder problems are worth more points, and there is a small penalty if it takes you 2 or more attempts to get from the starting hold(s) to the finish without falling. Your top 6 completed problems determine your score. There is some strategy in choosing which problems to attempt, in what order, and how many attempts to make on a problem before giving up, to maximize your score with the ability and endurance that you have. You can watch others try each problem to help you figure out what will work for you. We raffle off a lot of prizes to those in the Youth, Recreational and Experienced categories.
The top finishers in the Open category for both men and women advance to a final round. The number that advance is based on the number of competitors registered in each category, but is typically about 8 men and women. The finalists are kept in an Isolation Area while the routesetting team puts up a set of new problems for finals. Each competitor is brought out one at a time in front of each finals problem, and given 5 minutes to attempt it. There’s a 5 minute rest period between problems (more if a competitor finishes the previous problem quickly!), and the competitors are streamed through the problems, so at times there will be 4 climbers on different problems at the same time. It makes for a very exciting spectacle! Spectators are welcome to come to watch the final round and cheer on the competitors; there is no charge for this. The top finishers in the Open categories share a cash prize pool.
Staging this event is a huge effort, and there is an impact on our regular operations. Starting on Tuesday, March 6th, the north half of the gym will be closed off so we can work on setting the boulder problems for the comp. On Thursday March 8th we expect to close off a few other areas of the gym, such as the traverse bouldering wall on the south side, and the stalactite. The gym will be completely closed on Friday March 9th to complete our preparations, and on Saturday March 10th only registered competitors may climb. We will be working hard to restore the gym for regular climbing starting immediately after the comp, so things should be somewhat back to normal on Sunday, but it may take a few days to have our usual complement of climbs restored.
This event is disruptive to our usual operations, and we appreciate your understanding if it interferes with your plans. It is a huge effort for our team, and also a major expense for the gym. While the event brings in a lot of money in the form of registration fees, the associated expenses – including the loss of 2 days of regular revenue – greatly exceed the income. We love to host this event because it is exciting for both competitors and spectators, because it draws a lot of people to our facility who don’t regularly visit, and because we believe in supporting the local competitive climbing community.