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Outdoor Recreation
Bouldering Bouldering

This past semester, the Outdoor Recreation Program hosted their sixth annual Boulder Bash climbing competition. If you’ve never ventured over to the climbing wall, let us break down the sport for you:

What is “bouldering?”

Bouldering is a form of rope-less rock climbing

Bouldering is a form of rope-less rock climbing. If you have ever visited Lied Recreation Center, the rock climbing wall in the entrance of the building is a bouldering wall. At State Gym, the shorter wall right next to the pool window is a bouldering wall as well. Bouldering routes are typically much shorter and more difficult than top rope routes, and climbers often complete routes by jumping down on to some type of padded flooring.

Boulder Bash is an annual bouldering competition with approximately 60 competitors each year. The goal of the competition is for the participant to climb as many boulder problems (routes) at their skill level as they can in a two hour competitive window. The event takes place at Lied Rec Center and climbers of all skill levels are welcome to participate. There are four competitive groups in Boulder Bash: Beginner (grades ranging from VB-V1), Intermediate (V2-V3), Advanced (V4-V5), and Open (V6+).  Most opportunities offered by Recreation Services require that you be a pass holder; however, Boulder Bash is one of the few events where this is not a requirement. As a result, competitors of all ages from different states and universities are welcome to join.

This event is wild. Dozens of energized climbers, fun music, t-shirts for everyone, and tables full of snacks and sandwiches.

Let’s address the question everyone is wondering about: how do we fund this thing?

Easy! Sponsors. Every year we have a number of companies who sponsor the event and donate prizes. Here are this year’s sponsors:

The big sponsor for this year’s competition was Jax Outdoor Gear, who submitted about half of the sponsorships including many of the participant prizes. Every climber went home with a new piece of gear, whether it be a t-shirt, a hat, a chalk bag or a backpack, and at the end of the day a raffle was drawn for winners of the grand prizes. Grand prizes included crash pads from Mad Rock, free climbing shoe vouchers from Mad Rock, and an annual pass to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch!

How was this year’s competition different from previous years?

After speaking with Jarrad Chester, one of the Outdoor Recreation Program’s coordinators, we learned that this year specifically the competitive structure of the event was changed. In previous years, the competition consisted of a high volume of climbers (approximately 30 at a time) on the wall for a long period of time. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two competitive groups, and those groups were slotted ~ 3 total hours of climbing time. Prior to this year’s Boulder Bash event, the Outdoor Recreation staff analyzed all the data from prior Boulder Bash competitions and recorded the number of attempts and completions per person. As a result, they found that having a smaller time frame to climb resulted in a higher number of attempts and completions per person. This year’s competition included a smaller volume of climbers (20 at a time, included in one of three competitive groups) on the wall for a shorter period of time, allowing participants to take longer breaks and have more flexibility to try the routes they were interested in.

This was also the first year ever trying a finals format in which the top three competitors from each skill level group competed for the first place title. Before the finals round, these climbers were put into a holding room while the Outdoor Recreation Program route setters put the final routes on the wall. The competitors came out of the holding room to routes they had never seen before.

The last big change to Boulder Bash this year was the number of routes on the wall. In 2016, our route setters put up 51 routes total. Last year there were 46 routes, and this year we only had 29 routes set for our competitors. With the final routes added on at the end, the day came to a close with 33 routes on the wall. With a fewer number of routes available, climbers did not have as many options and had to focus in on the climbs they wanted to complete, as opposed to having too many options which results in a low success rate. Additionally, having 29 routes this year helped our setters to put up higher quality routes that they were able to invest more time into. Every year this system will be dialed in further to ensure a positive response from the competing climbers.

So, what about next year?

Boulder Bash 2019 should be very close in format to this year, so it should go a bit more smoothly but still feel very similar. The competition will yet again be open to the public, and next year in October the ORP is hoping to organize an intramural bouldering competition as well (only available to pass holders, however). The goal of the Outdoor Recreation Program is to offer more opportunities for the Ames and Iowa State climbing community to partake in high energy competitive climbing windows. Doing complete wall resets three times a year will be beneficial for both the Iowa State route setting team and the climbing community – coming in to a fresh gym is a great feeling!

How do I sign up for the next competition?

Sign-up goes quickly. This year, all of our competitive slots filled in three days, and there were only two cancellations. If you want to get in to the competition, be sure to sign up early! Come in to the ORP office to sign up, or if you’re an out-of-town competitor you can call in. If you are a local competitor we cannot do payment over the phone. Payment can be made with cash or card, but not UBill (we know, we know, it’s frustrating, but those are the rules). The cost of sign-up will include admission to compete, a t-shirt, a raffle prize, lunch, and snacks.

Congratulations to our 2018 Boulder Bash Champions!

Men’s Beginner: Ben Shoemaker, Matt Madwig

Women’s Beginner: Molly Statz, Analise Reed

Men’s Intermediate: Ethan Wieczorec, Andrew Weber, Noah Berthusen

Women’s Intermediate: Jessica Alley, Keeli White, Miranda Dietze

Men’s Advanced: Miguel Sanchez, Andy Plein, and Simon Duster

Women’s Advanced: Morgan Pearson

Men’s Open: Bryce Struttman, Payton Hansen, Jack Nelson

Women’s Open: Allison Molitor