Page 38 - 2016 AMA Autumn
P. 38

                                  SportClimbing 2015/16
“October was here, and psyche was high for the bouldering league”
Wednesday 14th October marked the first round of the 2015/16 Armed Forces Bouldering League. What would follow is five months of intense bouldering competitions across the country with members from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force all fighting it out for the title of Armed Forces Bouldering Champion. Many of the die-hard boulderers see this as the main event in the annual climbing calendar, whilst some of those who enjoy strapping on a harness see the AFBL as a warm up to the sport climbing competitions later in the year (an argument I won’t go into, but I’m sure the AMA Vice Chairman Col Pete Skinsley will agree, bouldering is best).
Bouldering has grown massively in popularity in recent years, and this was evident in record attendance numbers at this year’s league; with the exception of the initial round in Glasgow (which is a little too far for those living south of the M4 to travel), each round saw an average attendance of 100+ competitors. Each round consisted of 25 problems graded V0 (easy) to V8 (really hard...and often painful). The climbs all vary in style from basic ‘juggy ladder’ problems to funky, acrobatic numbers that involve a combination of technical, dynamic and powerful movements.
Every year the five AFBL rounds are held in different locations across the country. This year, competitors took time out of their busy schedules to travel to rounds at Glasgow, Chester, Poole and Nottingham, each with their own memorable moments. For the fifth round competitors were subjected to climbing in front of a public audience on a custom-built wall set up London’s popular Outdoor Show.
Members from the Army Climbing Team made a great contribu- tion to the attendance and immediately began to show the RAF and Navy teams that they meant business. The Army had the
greatest number of competitors at each round of the AFBL, with the exception of the Chester round which served a duel-purpose as the RAF Bouldering Championships. With the final round at Indy in Anglesey being cancelled, the stage was set for a showpiece final at the Excel Centre Outdoor Show. On a world cup standard wall with nowhere to hide under its steep and scary walls, the league would be decided. Crowds gathered in anticipation, and they weren’t dis- appointed. Nearly 100 competitors, including the Belgian military climbing team, battled it out over a long, hard four hours. It was only fitting that the event should end in a grand final of a tie-breaker to decide the overall male winner. Once again, it was LCpl Miles Hill who secured the overall victory for the year in the Mens Open, whilst Cpl Yasmin Geoghegan dominated the Women Open, despite not being able to attend the final round. The Under-25 category was won by 2Lt Ross Davidson, who also managed to hold onto first place despite missing rounds due to an operational deployment midway through the league. A whitewash was snatched from us by the RAF with Sgt Paul Easton wrapping up the Veteran’s category and retaining small amount of RAF pride. Overall, the league was a great success for the Army, winning 3 of the 4 categories. The attendance was the highest yet, and with the popularity of the sport rapidly increasing, it looks set to get even better next year.
For most, the final of this year’s AFBL marked the time to start dusting off those harnesses and start training reading for the sport climbing season, but for the league’s top performers it marked the time to start training harder. Those who achieved the highest scores were selected to compete at two further competitions in the year, the Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF) and Bouldermania (a European military climbing championships). Attendance at the CWIF (a world-class civilian competition) is a great opportunity for military climbers to mingle with the pros, but it can be very humbling (bouldering here is on a whole new level,

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