USA Bouldering Nationals 2018 Finals
As dusk fell over Salt Lake City in Utah, climbers and fans gathered in the foyer of the Salt Palace Convention Centre. They were waiting for the doors to open, vying for the best spectator sports to watch the US Bouldering Nationals.
When the doors opened and the crowd flooded in, they were greeted by eight intimidating looking problems, designed by the expert setting team under the leadership of Head Setter Dave Whitmore. From a distance, the lines were clear, but you needed to get closer to see which four were set to test the guys and which four were set to test the girls. A visually pleasing balance of holds and volumes, and colour unified for that professional look, the problems immediately had the climbers in the crowd discussing beta.
When the six top qualifying girls came out, followed closely by the six top qualifying guys, the crowd broke into loud cheers, their enthusiasm brimming through.
From the first problem, one thing was clear. Reigning champions Alex Puccio and Nathaniel Coleman were prepared for the competition and ready to show the pretenders to the crown that they weren’t going to surrender their titles without a fight.
As the round progressed we saw that the guys problems were somewhat underset. Indeed, by completion three of the guys had topped every problem. With four flashes, defending two time champion was three time champ.
Coming in second was Sean Bailey, who was just dropped just four attempts. An impressive feat with the morpho nature of some of the problems. Drew Ruana dropped a few more attempts, not helped when his foot swung out of bounds on the finish dyno on the second problem.
It the girls, the set was much tougher, with the final problem not seeing a single top. I don’t think the fourth problem was too tough, but having it last, after three other skin intensive problems proved too much for the climbers, with several of them bleeding openly through their fingertips by then.
In the end it was Alex’s night once again. The US climbing legend taking her 11th title, beating young star Ashima Shiraishi on zones. It was an impressive performance by Ashima though, who had looked doubtful to compete even the day before due to a shoulder injury. In third place, Brooke Raboutou climbed superbly, missing silver by just two attempts, dropping once on the second problem and once on the third.
All in all a really enjoyable weekend with well set routes that showcased the new US scoring system well. I do think the girls routes were a bit to long and involved, with the climbers paying the price in skin, however they were entertaining to watch and tested the climbers well.
All the photos are available at https://circuit.smugmug.com/2018-US-Bouldering-Nationals-Finals for personal use.