With the clock at zero, Miriam Timson, the last climber on the wall, swung for the topmost hold on the fourth and final boulder problem at Saturday night’s Bend Boulder Bash at the Bend Rock Gym. She just barely grasped the hold, and as the large crowd screamed encouragement she brought both hands together on the top hold before dropping from the height of a single-story building, landing on the mat in triumph.
Timson, 17 and of Seattle, had won the Bash with 99.8 points, meaning she reached the top hold (worth 25 points) on each of the four problems (lower holds on each climb are worth five , 10 and 15 points) and had 0.1 points deducted for each of her two falls in the finals. She was the only competitor, male or female, to reach the top of all four “problems,” the climbing term for individual routes or climbing sequences. Each climber in the Bash finals had four minutes on each problem, although they were allowed to finish a climbing attempt if they were already on the wall.
“That was sick!” the men’s winner, 27-year-old Alex Borst, told Timson after the event. “Oh man, two fingers —”
“No, it was one finger!” Timson corrected him.
As she hung on the final problem, preparing for her final move, Timson was already leading second-place finisher Lauren Smith, who finished with 89.4 points, although there was no way for Timson to be sure of that, as bouldering competitors tackle climbs one at a time and are not allowed to watch each other, otherwise athletes who competed later in the round could get an unfair advantage by copying tactics or moves from the preceding climbers. The final points were tallied only after the competition was finished.
Still, Timson said she was not too worried during her final climb.
“In my opinion, it’s less stressful to do these comps (competitions) than it is to do youth comps, because it’s not about making it to the next round, like with regionals, sectionals, nationals,” Timson explained. “At the top there, I already knew that I had done pretty well, that I was happy with how I climbed. So I wasn’t too stressed out. But I really wanted to get it because I knew I could.”
Borst, who recently moved from Portland to take a job as a route-setter at Vertical World in Seattle, won the men’s event with 84.5 points. He started the final round off slow, falling off the wall before even reaching the five-point hold on the first problem. He would fall three more times before reaching the top of that climb. On the second problem, he fell four times and reached only the 10-point hold.
“Boulder 1, I did horrible on, and then it was a fight back every boulder after that,” said Borst, who also won the event in 2015. “But (the routes) looked really gorgeous, the moves were really cool, the crowd was hyped.”
The Bend Rock Gym has been hosting the Boulder Bash since 2010, and 80 climbers competed in one of the three categories on Saturday. Rich Breuner, the Bend Rock Gym director of operations, said nearly 150 adult climbers and 150 kids competed in the first Boulder Bash of the year last November.
Before the competition started, the climbers were given a few minutes to check out each of the problems and contemplate how they would like to tackle them, in some cases discussing tactics with their competitors.
“That’s kind of a game of, how much do you want to tell everyone else?” Borst explained. “Most people are pretty open to share their intel with everyone else, and some people are a little more reserved. I’m a little more on the reserved side. I’ll kind of take a step back and listen to everyone else, because I’ve been doing it a little longer than them. And then I kind of make my own decisions based off of everything they say.
“But then when you actually go to get on the boulder, it’s a whole nother ballgame.”
Brennan Robinson, a 20-year-old University of Portland student who finished second on the men’s side with 74.8 points, said he considers many of his competitors as friends, so he does not mind bouncing ideas off of them.
“I was talking to everybody, trying to figure it out with all of them, mostly on the climbs that I didn’t really know what to do on,” Robinson said. “The ones that I knew for sure what to do, I would keep to myself. But of course, I like working with everyone else. It’s kind of like a nice (climbing) session, to be honest. That’s how I treat it, sometimes. We’re all looking at it, we’re all figuring it out. It’s who can be the strongest (on the wall), honestly.”
Although experience can help, age does not determine who is the strongest on the wall. As Joey Jannsen, the head route setter at Bend Rock Gym and the Boulder Bash announcer, joked, just two of the 12 finalists were old enough to legally drink beer. Mira Capicchioni, who finished in third place on the women’s side, is just 12 years old and trains with Bend Endurance Academy.
“The sport, in our market, is definitely leaning to the younger end of the spectrum,” said Rich Breuner, the Bend Rock Gym director of operations. “What you’re starting to see with these sorts of competitions is climbing turning into more of an athletic pursuit, and competition is a big part of that, crystallizing that and creating a medium where people can test their physical abilities.”
—Reporter: 541-383-0305, email@example.com
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, an incorrect year was listed as the year in which the Bend Rock Gym first hosted the Boulder Bash. The Bulletin regrets the error.