For the past five years, the Bend Rock Gym has been hosting a competitive bouldering series called "Boulder Bashes." But, these events have largely been self-contained to the climbers there to show off their skills.
That is, until last weekend. On Saturday, the Bend Rock Gym hosted its final "Boulder Bash" of the season—and, Bend's first ever cash prize climbing competition.
The idea behind the series, explained head setter and impassioned climber Joey Jannsen, was "to try our best to let the climbing community have fun." Since launching in 2009, the events have garnered popularity for local climbers—and, given that success, explains Jannsen, "we decided we would try and do something a little bigger."
And, this past weekend, a "little bigger" translated into more than just cash prizes for the top male and female competitors, but also a noisy and festive gathering. More than 70 competitors participated, mostly from around the region. There was a live DJ set up to emcee the event. Silver Moon Brewing provided beer. Humm Kombucha was on the scene, and Trader Joe's joined in by providing food. And, of course, Metolius along with Entreprises, Mountain Supply and others donated prizes.
The competition began with a preliminary round, also called the Redpoint Round, during which competitors were given two hours to accumulate as many points as possible by climbing ("sending") a route ("problem"). Each problem was awarded a certain number of points based upon its difficulty. Send the four hardest problems, earn a spot in the finals. But despite the competitive nature of this event, participants could and did work together to complete the problems; sharing "beta" (information) and encouraging each other to the top of the wall.
Climbing veteran Logan Carr, who qualified for the final round, said the redpoint "format was great, and it kept in style with what climbing is all about."
Alex Borst, the eventual winner of the event, agreed, adding that it "allowed for a lot of camaraderie."
The final round took on a decidedly different format from the qualifying; an "onsight" format, which means the top five ranked females and males were given two minutes to preview, but not touch, each of the four final problems. To eliminate what would otherwise be a clear advantage for the final competitor, the finalists also had to stay "blind" (backs turned) to how their competitors were climbing, and each competitor was given five minutes to work each problem.
Despite the highly competitive format, the vibe in the gym remained incredibly supportive. The crowd cheered with equal enthusiasm for each of the 10 finalists, even when Alex Borst of Portland and Cameron Thomson of Medford beat out locals for top prizes.
Impressed—and admittedly shocked by the event's scope of success—Jannsen is already eager to plan for next year. "More people, and a larger cash purse," he says.
This April, the Sport Climbing Series begins, with divisional championships at Bend Rock Gym this June.