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Coming down to the wire!

As the season nears its close one thing is abundantly clear. In 2014 the IFSC World Cup remains wide open with two men and three women having a realistic chance at taking their respective overall titles.

In the men’s series it has proven to be a battle between the maturing Jan Hojer and the 3 time champion of the World Dmitrii Sharafutdinov.



Coming off his debut win last year Jan had the perfect start to the season picking up victory in Chongqing and maintaining a finals presence all the way to Innsbruck trading victories with Dmitrii. In Innsbruck the first chink in his armor appeared with a 10th place but Dmitrii failed to capitalize with his worst result of the season to that point, finishing 4th.

Jan rebounded in Canada with a strong 2nd place finish (important as Dmitrii skipped the round due to the difficulties he faced securing a Visa) but again at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail he missed out on finals, a telling blow this time with Dmitrii taking his second victory of the season after Baku.

Now, going into the final two events Dmitrii is on just behind Jan in the overall with Jan on 437 and Dmitrii on 415. Of course Dmitrii doesn’t have to drop his worst result which puts him ahead by 12 points once Jan drops Innsbruck. So with 200 points still on offer its super close!

In the women’s overall its much the same with Britain’s Shauna Coxsey holding a slender lead over Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Austria’s Anna Stöhr still in the running as an outside chance (who would’ve thought we’d be saying that after last years stellar season!)




Matched on two wins apiece Shauna narrowly leads Akiyo by 11 points in the current standings but again once you drop their worst results, a 5th for Shauna at Vail and a 4th for Akiyo you’re left with a 15 point difference, Shauna still just ahead of Akiyo with 425 over 410…

With Anna on an adjusted 386 she is 39 points behind Shauna. This means if she was to win the last two events she would take the overall by 1 point, even if Shauna were to finish 2nd in both. So in the women’s, especially considering the strengths of the 3 athletes in question it really is too close to call!

Please provide you guesses for the final men’s and women’s standings (with points) on The Circuit Facebook link to this post. The closest to the final season result wins a copy of the magazine. *Entries close Thursday the 19th of June


That restless state of being

Life for me at the moment is traveling. Traveling and that inherent uncertainty that comes with being self-employed.

I get asked if I travel well and I guess the answer is yes. Yes in that I am resilient and hard to stress out. I also have a generally open chatty demeanor which quite often gets me onside with people whose job it is to make life inconvenient (maybe not on purpose but through their actions.)

Of course it’s not always that easy and in some ways I’m a terrible traveler. My grasp of foreign languages is fleeting and frustrating which can get to me when things aren’t working out. That coupled with my near total inability to sleep on public transport can lead to a red eyed grumpy, solution based version of me (which is a bad thing as my decision making suffers with fatigue.)

But on the whole it’s not the lack of sleep or the frustration of communication that is the hardest part about traveling, it’s saying goodbye.


I am immensely lucky that people appreciate my photography and writing enough to want me around documenting the IFSC World Cups and outdoor climbing. My passion and commitment have taken me to where my climbing ability never could and I get to travel the World with the best climbers on the planet. However at the end of every trip comes the goodbyes, those fleeting conversations that happen while you try to allay the sadness of leaving through handshakes and hugs, convincing yourself as much as anyone else that you will see each other again soon to rekindle the friendships formed while on the road.



Everyone knows that although they will probably meet again there are always uncertainties. Everyone beneath the top dozen or so athletes is faced with the reality that if they don’t perform the opportunity to represent their country could disappear. The next hot young climber is always waiting to take their place in the traveling elite.

For some climbers the motivation goes and they fade from the competition circuit to focus on outdoor objectives. This year several strong competitors are transitioning from competition to rock and you know the goodbyes from them will last that little bit longer.


Then of course there is my situation. I gave up the security of a full time job for this life, I rented out my room and car and hit the road. It is a wonderful existence but it comes at a cost. Over the coming weeks I will engage with prospective advertisers for issue 2 and if I don’t generate enough interest it will be me saying goodbye for a while and working on issue 2 from the other end of the world while holding down a day job to make ends meet.

When you’re traveling you get used to goodbyes, that sadness that comes with them is a sign that the people you meet add value to your life and it makes every goodbye worth it. If you didn’t travel you wouldn’t face the goodbyes but you wouldn’t share the fun and excitement of living with such a diverse and wonderful bunch of people. That said, I still hate goodbyes!


Not everyone is designed to travel but everyone should try it. You may sleep through every flight like a baby, you may gain proficiency in every language that you come across, and you may get frustrated and angry when things invariably don’t work out. However you will learn to say goodbye and through that you will realise the world is full of special people. If you never leave home again travel is worth it just for that realization.

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Baku 2014, The Circuit review.


For My Baku review I am going to look at the event first and then discuss the athlete’s performances second.

Yesterday I read that Baku was hoping to hold a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2016. This both surprised me and amused me in turn. Anyone that knows Formula 1 knows of Bernie Ecclestone the legendary boss of the sport.

The simple truth is Bernie would not tolerate a fraction of what the IFSC tolerated in Baku this previous weekend. Here is a man that grew Formula 1 from niche sport to where it is today by expecting a high level of professionalism wiIth every event organizer contracted, one not afraid to walk away if the event didn’t meet the standard expected as a top echelon professional sport. The onus is on the IFSC to exact the same high standards of organizers of World Cup climbing events to ensure the growth and development of competition climbing.


I didn’t say this at all to readers, Facebook followers etc. while I was in Baku (because http://www.cnbc.com/id/46471155/page/3) but it needs to be said. The event organizers in Baku failed to provide the basics at an acceptable level. There was intermittent bursts of enthusiasm but no consistency of effort and very little cohesive direction from above and the result was an IFSC World Cup that didn’t present the sport to the wider viewing audience in a favorable light.

The majority of the athletes, coaches and family members that travel to World Cup events have only partial funding or none at all, when they invest in traveling to a World Cup they expect to be representing their countries at a professional run event. The climbers train for years to get to a standard where they are good enough to compete in front of a global audience and the expectation is the events will have an equivalent level of professionalism. They want the best routes on the best walls in front of the best crowds and with clean, professional coverage. Sure mess ups can happen like the rainstorm interfering with qualification at Innsbruck last year but that needs to be the exception, not the rule!

Baku gave us an amazing venue but then things went south fast. When the setters arrived to start setting the problems the only holds they were given would be suitable for a kids wall, thus began an urgent race to bring holds in from Europe in time. The mats weren’t finished for them and within days the large roof designed to protect the athletes from the blazing desert sun had buckled under the relentless wind (Baku means Windy City in Azeri) and had to be removed on safety grounds, exposing the athletes to the elements.


The Speed wall was also beset by difficulties and at one stage I watched open mouthed as a local soloed up the outside of the scaffolding to hang one of the topropes. Completely unprotected 15 meters up… What a look it would have been for the sport if he had fallen…

In short the IFSC needs to give the organizers a Bernie Ecclestone level shellacking and let them know that to have a World Cup again they have to seriously improve at their end and put in safeguards to ensure it happens.

So, how was the actual climbing at the event? What did we learn and how has the season evolved from a week earlier in Chongqing?


Starting with the Women’s field the first thing we saw in qualifying is that France’s World Champion Melanie Sandoz is continuing to struggle, narrowly missing the semifinals cut. Is it that the French are arriving to late on the fly away rounds? Other performances in the team would indicate this isn’t the case so maybe Mel just struggles with travel?


On the flip side one thing these fly away rounds have given us is the opportunity to see some of the up and coming athletes who are rapidly establishing themselves in the sport. From France both Marine Thevenet and Fanny Gibert have climbed extremely well with Marine making finals in her first attempt and finishing one place out in 7th at Baku. The established pros Melanie and Melissa Le Neve will have their work cut out staying ahead of this pair.

Also making a superb showing in the ladies have been the two I call the little Americans, Grace Mckeehan and Claire Bresnan. Both had competed at the highest level domestically and it’s fantastic to see them getting international exposure at such a formative period of their careers!


The Women’s field is different from the men’s though as now, barring a huge upset, we have 5 ladies I’d expect to see in every final. The quintet of Anna Stöhr, Alex Puccio, Shauna Coxsey, Akiyo Noguhi and Jule Wurm have all come into the season looking fitter than ever and ready to win! Last year Anna dominated in finals but this year it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw 4 or even all 5 atop a podium at some point. It was devastating for Shauna to lose on a dab this weekend as she looked totally at ease on every boulder. In saying that so did Anna and the setters will have a tough job ahead ensuring the problems are really hard enough without resorting to party trick problems like the run and jump last week.

The men’s field has also thrown up its share of surprises with two of the legends of the sport Rustam Gelmanov and Kilian Fischhuber not making the first final in China. They quickly showed their professionalism and put themselves back in the leading pack for Baku though which is great to see. Keep an eye on Kilian this year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the World Champs in Munich is his last event as a full time competitor on the circuit so savour those few comps we have left seeing the master at work!


Dmitrii Sharafutdinov and Jan Hojer are looking like the absolute form pair this year with Dmitrii scything the problems in Baku and Jan fighting his way to victory a week earlier. It’s great to see as with very different body types they show how diverse body types can be matched at the highest level.

Of course there’s no room for complacency with Climbers like James Kassay and Jorg Verhoeven always threatening and the likes of Sean McColl and Adam Ondra coming out to play over the next few weeks! On top of that we have some superb young climbers in Alban Levier of France and Vadim Timonov of Russia working their way into serious contention!


Tune in to the IFSC stream this weekend to see all the action from Grindelwald in whats looking to be the biggest IFSC Bouldering World Cup turnout ever!!!

The Art & Science of Bouldering reviewed


The new tome on climbing by German legend Udo Neumann raises some interesting questions on training for climbing. Not so much in its content but in its delivery.

You see there are a large number of climbers out there looking for a proscriptive training book that steps them through the process of improvement in micro managed steps. In a way they are looking for somebody else to do the thinking for them, to structure their progression as a climber and possibly even to pass on the blame to if their training fails to raise them to the lofty heights of achievement they envisage.

Udo isn’t looking to give you this in a book. Instead through his new book The Art & Science Of Bouldering he is inviting you to understand the processes involved in a climbers personal evolution as an athlete. For surely having a comprehensive understanding of the principals of climbing advancement will be equip any climber to make educated choices about their own progression.

Please note this is not knocking the other style of training books, the simple truth is people learn in different fashions so as they progress in climbing and for a lot of climbers this free thinking, free flowing style of book will be a godsend!

From the first pages of this mammoth ebook Udo’s unique presentation style and personality shine through. Visually very strong the content drags you from page to page stimulating your mind though a choice selection of photos taken over the many years of Udo’s career. The photography is excellent and visually dynamic with great frame by frame breakdowns of movement and positioning taken from video stills mixed with standalone shots that reinforce the story. Indeed seeing many of today’s top climbers in their younger years gives an interesting insight into the physiological changes they have gone through on their journey to where they are today.


For some Udo’s presentation style may come across as too “loud” with lots happening on many of the pages. The trick for me is not to try and read each page like you would a traditional book but instead to let your eyes flow over the content and allow the context to dictate the flow. Indeed in some ways, and definitely supported by its interactive format, this book is more like a super PowerPoint presentation than a traditional text. And Udo himself in the introduction advises that the book is not only designed to be read from cover to cover but can be picked up at any point to focus on specifics.


Going back to the interactive aspects of the book, on the attached photos you can see clearly the highlighted text sections. All of these will either skip you ahead to a section directly dealing with the highlighted subject or will take you to another resource be it website or video where you can see what is discussed covered in more detail.


Udo’s approach to The Art & Science is uniquely his own and it works fantastically in the digital medium. While some may shy from the €26 price tag it is worth noting that the content included in this ebook is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by Udo over more than 20 years as a top climbing coach and philosopher. As any of you who have read his interview in The Circuit will understand Udo pours his heart and soul into climbing and in particular bouldering. The quality of this publication reflects that dedication.

The Art & Science Of Bouldering may not make you a better climber, only you can do that, but it is an invaluable tool in your arsenal as the knowledge it imparts could and would take years and years to puzzle out if you were to go it alone.

The Art & Science Of Bouldering is available to purchase now at http://artofbouldering.com/ and remember if you want to learn more about Udo and his philosophies and to hear from some of his top athletes on the IFSC World Cup circuit there is a feature length interview with him in issue 1 of The Circuit, available now at  http://www.thecircuitclimbing.com/Buy