THE EVOLUTION OF CLIMBING FROM BEING A LIFESTYLE TO BEING A GENUINE SPORT
HOW HAS THE VISION OF CLIMBING CHANGED FROM THE STEREOTYPE “CHEAPSKATE” CLIMBER THAT CAMPS AT THE BASE OF THE CRAG TO BEING AN ATHLETE?
IS CLIMBING JUST A LIFESTYLE?
Climbing or rather free climbing has been around in Europe for almost 30 years. For those who saw its birth, inevitably there have been many changes. The old pioneers of climbing who travelled in search of conquering the vertical world were really convinced that that represented a “lifestyle” and few would have predicted that it would become a real sport.
Back in the day the philosophy was to live for climbing, for traveling, to be true climbers on the “inside”, a little bit hippy and a little bit wild. We all have in mind the legend of the vagabond climber, free to choose their own life, impervious to the consumerism in the eighties, without a family, driving off in the van for a trip with no ties and for an indefinite period of time, to live simply in the world of climbing.
Today something has changed.
The arrival of competitions, the classification of this sport by the federations, websites with scoreboards even for indoor climbing, and the standardization of the high level of climbing have all contributed to profoundly changing the poetry of the past.
For the current generation of climbers the goals and the expectations are different from those of the “star” climbers 30 years ago such as Lynn Hill, Wolfgang Gullich, Patrick Edlinger, François Legrand and so on.
For the new generation who have grown up in the boulder gym, the goal is the performance, the competitions and the climb. There is no doubt: today, climbing is a sport in every respect. Today the climber is either a student or has a full time job, someone who climbs on the weekend and takes advantage of low cost airlines to escape from everyday life for a week of climbing.
THE CONTINUANCE WITH THE PAST
CLIMBING: AN EXCLUSIVE PASSION NEEDING TOTAL COMMITMENT
The youth of today start participating at competitions from such a young age (from the under 8 category); they form and acquire levels and a capacity always increasingly higher before going to some cult place for sport climbing and transpose their athletic ability on the rock by climbing a hard line that has shaped the history of this sport.
FROM THE COMPETITION TO THE ROCK
There has not been a real split between the competitive component and the most romantic lifestyle, but the trend and the direction from the competitive sport to climbing on the rock has changed.
Today the youngsters are born onto the plastic and so that pioneering atmosphere from the eighties that is well known, where they left as nomads in search of good conditions for climbing, in the search of undertaking something no one had ever faced, has changed profoundly. Today the search for high difficulty through training is the goal to be achieved; the lifestyle becomes a result of this search.
The modern TOP CYBER CLIMBER surfs the internet, choosing the destination by carefully checking weather forecasts to assess the conditions and watching videos of the “must do” ascents that they want to climb.
At the bottom of it all, they are always a nomad, with a rucksack on their shoulder, just simply more up with the times.
Although there is no doubt that climbing is indeed changing, increasingly becoming a sport that is accessible to all. Nevertheless, there is one thing that I do not think has changed compared to the past; the idea that climbing is an exclusive passion and encompassing, even for top climbers from the World Cup series, climbing becomes an inescapable lifestyle.
WHAT ADDED VALUE HAS BROUGHT THE COMPETITIVE SPIRIT TO CLIMBING?
The competitive spirit in any discipline leads the individual or athlete to enrich themselves on a mental level, allowing them through the competitive sport to get to know themselves and their limits and then exceed those limits.
The commitment, the dedication and the desire to improve teach the individual to be disciplined and to confront the obstacles found in front of them. The kids from the world of the climbing gym have raised the bar and done so in such a way that climbing in general has become even more professional, reaching levels that were unthinkable.
MORE THAN JUST A SPORT
Of course, in climbing beyond the competitive spirit many ingredients can be found that make this activity a unique experience and difficult to categorize as just a mere “sport”.
Climbing enriches those who do it at a social and personal level, travelling and discovering new places opens the mind. With climbing there are always great moments on a trip: when you are on the wall finding the right move, the right rhythm to climb, the right feeling on the rock, the nature, the landscape and so on.
These are just some of the aspects that still make climbing today a complete and personal experience, not just full of sporting rules, thus leaving that idealistic and romantic taste that climbing will never become JUST a SPORT.
A NEW WAY TO UNDERSTAND CLIMBING: THE COMPETITIONS.
FROM THE ROCK TO THE COMPETITION: the story
The competitions that we are used to seeing on the internet nowadays is all fairly recent news for this discipline. Officially born in 1985 in Bardonecchia (TO) in Italy. Here the first competition in the world was organised for difficulty (lead climbing). The best climbers of the moment came together and the event was called sportroccia. It was a success that marked the birth of a new era of sport climbing. In 1986, the event was repeated in Arco di Trento and in the same year in Lyon, the French Federation organised the first indoor event showing the potential for this new way of climbing laying the foundations for the new sport.
In 1989, the first World Cup took place and in the same year, climbing became recognised by the UIAA as a sport in all respects.
The 90s marked the start of a large number of events and competitions in all the major parts of Europe and also further afield. Hence the necessity to conduct competitions on artificial structures.
For bouldering, which is an even more recent discipline, we had to wait until 1999 to witness the first bouldering World Cup competition in Bardonecchia.
Today there is a growing schedule of official and unofficial events; always more countries worldwide are continuing to be included. Among the events in the calendar are the national rounds (Italian Cup and Italian Championships) www.federclimb.it, the continental rounds for the European Cup and the European Championships (youth and senior), and the international rounds (World Cup and World Championships both youth and senior) www.ifsc-climbing.org
Only in 2006 did the UIAA also include paraclimbing competitions, dedicated to the climbers with disabilities; while in 2011, the Olympic Committee decided to include sport climbing in a list that includes all the possible new events to be included in the 2020 Olympic Games.
The story of climbing competitions is still fairly fresh and is still full of developments.
THE DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES WITHIN SPORT CLIMBING
To date, there are three competitive disciplines:
This is on a structure that is at least 12 metres high, climbing with a rope, where the goal is to climb as high as possible until you reach the TOP, in the shortest time possible on the route set especially for the occasion.
This takes place on smaller structures, the maximum height being 5 metres, without a rope and with mattresses for protection. The goal is to solve as many “boulder problems” in the fewest attempts possible.
This takes place on walls between 10 and 15 metres high with set routes that are standard for all the competitions worldwide. The goal, just like in the 100-metre sprint, is to reach the TOP that consists of an electronic button to mark the time, as fast as possible.
The competitions are distinguished at a national level by age category starting from Under 8 up to Under 20 and then the Senior category in which all the climbers from the Under 16 category and up can participate.
cover pic: http://www.glowacz.de