Did Psicocomp Just Make Speed Climbing Cool?

Justin Roth, writing on The Stone Mind about last week’s Psicocomp:

The 2014 Psicocomp ended up even more exciting than the 2013 version. Clearly the event organizers paid attention to issues they encountered on their maiden voyage and tried to remedy them (hot tubs to keep soaked competitors from going hypothermic between heats, for example). Like bakers tweaking a recipe, they adjusted the ingredients and the ratios to create a better overall result. Speed climbing up a steep wall in a head-to-head sudden-death format with little downtime, plus big falls into water, all in a scenic outdoor setting (coincidence that it’s at an Olympic training facility?), attended by some of the continent’s strongest climbers—it turned out to be a heady mix that left the attending throngs stoked.

Between this and what happened at April’s SCS Nationals it’s been a pretty big year for speed climbing.

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8 Responses to Did Psicocomp Just Make Speed Climbing Cool?

  1. Dustin Boston August 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    [Crossposted from the Stone Mind] I actually disagree with Justin — I thought that Psicobloc 2014 was less exciting than 2013, as the focus moved almost entirely to speed and away from difficulty.

    Not to say that the climb wasn’t difficult on an absolute scale, but relative to the elite talent of the competitors, it seemed fairly moderate. For both the men and women, it didn’t seem difficult enough to stratify the field. It was almost a given that most climbers could top out, it was just a matter of who could do it faster. In 2013, there was an additional layer of tension — not just who could dyno up the wall the fastest, but who could actually get up highest on the wall.

    I agree that 2014 was far superior in terms of actual execution of the comp. It was smoother, seemed better run, and that’s worthy of recognition in itself. But I thought that the pendulum swung just a bit too far away from difficulty and towards speed, to the point where the former was almost entirely overshadowed by the latter. My favorite part of Psicocomp is how it can marry the two elements, and be something different than either a difficulty comp or a speed comp, beyond the fact that a pool is the only protection. I’m hoping for 2015 that the process continues to improve, but that the routes are a little more difficult and bring back in that extra layer of competitive tension.

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    • Jared August 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      I think 2014 was by far the more exciting competition. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as excited watching a competition with people I don’t know as when McColl vs Webb and Buhrfeind vs Puccio. And Traversi vs Woods. And McColl vs Sharma. And you get the point. This competition just had what feels like so many great moments. Its hard enough climbing that it takes longer than 4 seconds for each competitor to get to the top. And the entire field isn’t just separated by fractions of a second. And you get to see the competitors climb their hearts out trying to beat the person next to them. A slightly harder competition with more falls might be nice. But not as hard as the previous year, where it felt like speed wasn’t a deciding factor at all.

      I think another factor that makes this comp so fun to watch (this years as well as lasts) is the simple fact that all of the competitors seem to actually be enjoying themselves. Something you can’t always say about big competitions. The whole event has this “fun” factor that most competitions lack.

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  2. sierrasteeps August 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    I think a lot of the format is cool- head to head, brackets, the cool wall and pool, but I wouldn’t watch it again if the routes are as easy for the competitors as 2014. After a few goes it was just repetitive to watch them race up these things. No time for close-up camera angles, to evaluate technical prowess or different ways of figuring out moves, real hanging on for dear life/trying hard faces. Just a zoomed out angle of people executing easy moves for them. Also I wasn’t a huge fan of seeing how obviously terrified some of the competitors were at the top of the wall. Not sure what to do about that, though.

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  3. Chris Wheelwright August 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    After attending both last year and this year, I am torn on which style I like better. What I absolutely didn’t like is that they raised the price of the pool deck “seats” from $30 to $100!!! Last year it was absolutely packed and a ton of fun. This year I went for the $50 level and everyone was commenting on the fact that they could have easily fit 3-4 as many people into the “sold out” Gold level.

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    • Matt August 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

      $100 to watch a climbing comp? What?

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  4. j August 15, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    Great comments here. My comment is only to commend the quality of observations here, and to maybe concur that some tweaking between speed and difficulty is important for future comps of this nature, with perhaps a little more emphasis on difficultly. (But damn, 5.13’s for both men and women and these mutants can sorta speed climbing them? Maybe the problem is these top end athletes are just too good 🙂

    P.S. think Stonemind’s name for this post (reiterated by Mr. Narc) is slightly misleading, because it is not technically “speed climbing.” As noted above, it’s sort of a hybrid, with soloing thrown in for good measure.

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  5. justin August 15, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    I imagine they tried to hit that perfect level where the victor would be determined as much by skill as by how fast they got up the wall, where the pressure is on to keep moving and making decisions, but where it is not an outright speed contest.

    With the diversity of talent (even among the superstars), the requirement that the competitors climb the route multiple times in quick succession and a bunch of other mitigating factors, this would be a VERY hard thing to do, especially given that this is only the second event in this country.

    If I was in their shoes, I would TRY for the less speed oriented comp with a speed result as a backup opposed to a slow-paced difficulty comp as the backup format, and by my read that is what happened. I think that was definitely the right decision (considering that is how it went down), especially given the reaction to the event. I’m sure they will try to hit that perfect level again next year, and hopefully they can pull it off. If they don’t though, I bet it will still be just as awesome as this year.

    It was SO COOL to see all those climbers have to straight throw down like that. It just had some kind of feeling of a great athletic event somehow, where the results were only relative to that specific format/event (it was a contrived challenge), the climbers all looked like superstars, and everyone had fun. By my read, the results were even very objectively accomplished. It looked like a really great comp :).

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  6. Daniel August 16, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    What do the athletes think? Which format do they like more? Any (off-the-record) opinions?

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