Featured Special Corners The Blind Ascent

Adaptive Bouldering Nationals

Adaptive Bouldering Nationals

By: Shawn Sturges


Every year there are two main climbing competitions in the United States for adaptive climbers which include top rope and bouldering. Last summer I participated in my first adaptive climbing competition in top rope climbing where I placed second in the male visually impaired category. Since that time I went on to compete in several other adaptive climbing competitions both nationally and internationally. In a few weeks I will be competing in my first national adaptive bouldering competition in Salt Lake City, and I am looking forward to this comp no matter what the results will be in the end.

The form of climbing known as bouldering is rapidly becoming popular in gyms across the country mainly due to the ease of participating in the activity as a solo climber. In this form of climbing the climber ascends a route that at its height is only about ten feet off the ground. Climbers climb without the use of a rope with crash pads to cushion their fall. Each problem has a grade from v 0 to v 15 with most gyms only going up to v 10 because the average climber very rarely climbs harder than in the mid-range of the grading system. Boulder problems tend to be like a puzzle that may take many attempts to unlock since everyone’s body type is different which forces the climber to devise a solution that works for them.

Prior to preparing for this competition I was primarily a top rope climber since I enjoy being high off the ground, but quickly found reasons why bouldering will enhance my climbing abilities. In many harder graded top rope routes, there are often boulder problems at the crux of the route which requires power and sometimes creativity to pass that section of the wall. This is one reason why I began bouldering so that one day soon I will be able to climb much harder grades than I currently can achieve on top rope. This leads us into my journey into the bouldering world where I have never looked back.

About five months ago is when I seriously began bouldering where I was quickly able to complete many beginner problems. I could climb v 0 and v 1 problems with relative ease, but occasionally some of these grated problems still challenge me such as in cave problems where often I must use holds on the roof of the cave which puts my body parallel with the ground. These types of problems require a lot of strength and stamina to complete. In vertical problems, I have been able to complete v 2 along with v 3, but these are often still my limits of bouldering at the current time. My hopes are that with time and further training I will be able to break through this current plateau of mine to reach v 4 and v 5 problems.

This competition in Salt Lake City will only be my second national adaptive comp which will help me to better gauge my own climbing abilities. I am still a little nervous since I have only been climbing for about fourteen months and still relatively new to the competition scene. My plan is to go into this comp doing my best because that is all I can do. I never entered climbing planning on being a competition climber, but so far, I have enjoyed each comp that I have participated in and my plan is to continue even if I never become the strongest climber in my category. One day I may decide to no longer compete, but climbing will always be part of my life in one form or another. However, until that moment in time I will strive to continue doing my best and training hard for each comp while still enjoying the journey of climbing and all the peace it has brought me thus far.