Climbing New Zealand Bouldering National Championships
Climbing New Zealand held the 2021 Open Bouldering National Championships at Christchurch's Uprising gym on Saturday 11th December. This was the first time this competition has been held outside of the North Island for several years and it was great to see a really strong field of competitors from all around the country enter. The strong field, combined with excellent route-setting from Peter Lofthouse and the fantastic Uprising setters (Callum Renton, Mark Pugh-Williams, Christina Rivett and Alec McCallum) made for a compelling and tightly-contested event, which was lapped up by a large and appreciative crowd. The Sky Sport Next crew also attended to film the event and this was live-streamed on YouTube with expert commentary from Christchurch climber and former competition champ James Gunn. The finals are here, if you want to watch.
The qualifying round took place during the day and was particularly tough for the men, where extremely well-credentialed climbers like Josh Cornah, Matt Corbishley and Oskar Wolff (who have all climbed V13 boulders outside) failed to make it into the top six and thereby get to climb in the evening's finals round. The two best placed finishers only made three tops, with the next six all sitting on two tops it came down to the number of zone holds achieved to separate the field. The men's final came down to defending champion Tom Waldin battling it out against seasoned-veteran Zac Orme and an array of youthful talent from Enzo Murray, Jake Townshend, Joe Dravitzki and Henry Booker.
The women's qualifying was also really tight. Erica Gatland eased into the final by topping all five problems, while Amanda Speed, Phoebe Kenderdine, Sarah Tetzlaff and Cirrus Tan all topped four. The race for the last place into the finals was incredibly close, with five climbers all sitting on three tops and five zones. Rochelle Andrews went through ahead of the others, with one less attempt for her tops.
If the qualifying round was anything to go by, then every attempt would be crucial for the women and mistakes would likely be punished in the final result. This turned out to be the case, with Erica Gatland soaking up the pressure to flash all four problems. Having qualified in first place, this meant she couldn't be beaten. Defending champion Amanda Speed put in a valiant effort though, also topping all of the finals boulders, but in two more attempts and finishing clearly in second. Third place was exceptionally tight, with Cirrus Tan topping problems one and two, while coming agonisingly close to topping problem three, falling from the last move several times. Youth Olympian Sarah Tetzlaff also topped problems one and two, and even latched the final hold of problem three as her time elapsed, the judges somewhat cruelly deciding she had not controlled the hold in time, as she matched the hold after the clock hit zero. Meanwhile, Phoebe Kenderdine topped problems two and three, while Rochelle Andrews topped problems three and four. This showed the setters had created a good variety of problems, giving each climber the opportunity to show their strengths but also exposing any weaknesses. With Cirrus, Phoebe and Sarah all finishing with two tops and four zones, third place came down to attempts and was taken out by Cirrus, who flashed both boulders she topped.
The men's final was no less-enthralling. The first problem was a delicate slab that nobody flashed and demanded some real cunning, it was topped by Tom Waldin, Zac Orme, Jake Townshend and Joe Dravtzki. Zac drew on his years of Castle Hill slab climbing experience to do it in three goes, and sneak into the lead ahead of the others who took between four and seven. The second problem looked fierce, with a set of brand new dual-texture slopey volumes plotting a powerful path out the steepest part of Uprising's competition wall. Although we wouldn't know until the end, this problem ultimately decided the final, with Tom Waldin taking just two attempts to top it, while no other finalist could manage a top. Zac Orme stayed in second, flashing to the zone, while Joe Dravitzki moved into third with a zone on his fourth attempt. Jake Townshend slipped back down the ranking as as he was the only competitor not to find the zone hold. While the podium would stay in this order, of Tom, Zac and Joe, the final two problems still put on a great show for the crowd and a dramatic finish.
The podium finishers all topped problem three, with Zac Orme again showing his prowess on lower-angled problems with the only flash of the problem. Enzo Murray also got his first top of the final and moved into fourth place. Enzo then stormed into contention on the long roof of problem four, topping it impressively on his second attempt. He was the only climber not to get a zone after coming unstuck on problem one and this slow start probably cost him a place on the podium. The long day of climbing was now taking its toll on the finalists, with Zac, Joe and Jake all putting in courageous efforts on the final problem, climbing to the end on more than one attempt, but none could stick the final hold. Tom Waldin then sealed the deal, climbing last and flashing the problem.
Congratulations to all the finalists and competitors for putting on a great show. The bouldering competition format is a great spectacle and it is good to see a strong field entering and the recognition of television coverage for spectacular events like this. Climbing New Zealand did an excellent job of running the competition with able assistance from the crew at Uprising gym. The route setting was fantastic and varied, providing the required split between competitors but keeping it tight and thus dramatic for the crowd. Thanks also to the sponsors of this event: La Sportiva, The North Face, Rab and Black Diamond.
By Tom Hoyle