Climbing competition

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A climbing competition (or comp) is usually held indoors on purpose built climbing walls. There are three main types of climbing competition: lead, speed, and bouldering. In lead climbing, the competitors start at the bottom of a route and must climb within a certain time frame, making sure to clip the rope into pre-placed quickdraws along the route. Speed climbing can either be an individual or team event, with the person or team that can climb a standardized route the fastest is the winner. Bouldering competitions consist of climbing short problems without rope, with the emphasis on number of problems completed.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) organizes some of the most important international sport climbing competitions, including the Climbing World Championships and the Climbing World Cup. Sport climbing will be in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020.


Lead climbing[edit]

Lead climbing is the most common type of sport climbing. Competitors climb a long, difficult route designed and set by the route setter and attempt to reach the top. The climber's performance is determined by the highest hold reached and whether or not that hold was "controlled", meaning the climber achieved a stable position on that hold, or "used", meaning the climber used the hold to make a controlled climbing movement in the interest of progressing along the route.

In lead, climbers are belayed from below, and are required to clip quickdraws along the route. The route must be climbed within a certain time limit, usually 6 minutes, but can be extended to 7 or 8 minutes according to the route setter's opinion. 26 athletes qualify for the Semifinal, 8 proceed to the Final.

All standard Lead competitions consist of three rounds: qualifications, semifinals, and finals. In the qualification round competitors climb 2 similar routes 'flash', meaning there is no isolation and they can watch other competitors climb before their own attempt. Their rank will then be calculated as the square root of their rank on either route multiplied by each other.

At championship-level events, lead climbers must climb the route on sight. This means that they are allowed only one attempt, and they are not allowed to see other climbers on the route, or receive any form of advice (beta) from others after the competition has started. Otherwise, later climbers would be able to learn from previous competitors' mistakes, giving them a considerable advantage. Climbers are usually given a limited amount of time to visually inspect the route from ground level. In the case of ties, the athlete's rank from the previous round is taken into account (the "countback" process). In the Finals, and if the tie is not broken using the countback process, the climbing time will be considered.

Speed climbing[edit]

Speed climbing with two lanes
Kids speed climbers in Mashhad

Speed is the only factor that counts in the Speed Climbing event. This is a top roping climb in which competitors climb a slightly overhanging IFSC certified vertical piste with belaying from the top. Since 2007 the IFSC has created a standard wall layout for the world record. The climbing time is determined by mechanical-electric timing (the competitor strikes a switch at the top of the route); manually timing was allowed as a backup solution until 2018[1]. With the mechanical-electric timing, the climbing time shall be displayed with an accuracy of 0.01 seconds, and recorded with an accuracy of 0.001 seconds for ranking only. As of 30 April 2017, Iranian climber Reza Alipourshenazandifar holds the men's 15 meter speed world record; 5.48 seconds.[2] Iuliia Kaplina from Russia holds the women's 15-meter speed record at 7.38 seconds, which was set at the same event.[2]

Team speed climbing[edit]

The new Team Speed discipline was introduced as a medal showcase for the 2011 World Championship. It is a relay competition with teams of three. The teams are made up of 3 athletes of the same sex. Before the 2012 set of rules was introduced, the teams had to be mixed sexes. The race is held on the world record wall split into four lanes, two for each team. The first athlete races to hit the button at the top of the wall, at which point the second athlete climbs the second leg to release the third and final athlete whose final button marks the total time.


The bouldering competition consists of climbing without belay ropes on short walls. Falls are stopped by specifically engineered mattresses. This discipline is marked by high difficulty concentrated into a short route, limited competition time, and close proximity to the spectators. It differs especially from Lead in the respect that the climber can attempt a route more than once; the climbers are typically allowed several attempts, but they cannot see other climbers on the boulder, or receive from others any form of advice after the competition has started.

The competitor's score is determined by the overall number of routes sent by him/her and the number of attempts needed. If athletes do not reach the finishing hold they may be awarded a bonus point for having reached a particular hold, the Bonus hold (called the "Zone" by the IFSC), which is marked by the route setter. In bouldering 20 athletes qualify for the Semifinal, and 6 proceed to the Final.

Bouldering competitions at higher levels usually use isolation like the roped competitions.

Main competitions[edit]

Some of the most widely known international competitions are administered by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, including:

Other widely known international competitions are:

In the United States, the American Bouldering Series organizes regional, divisional and national events.

Olympic games[edit]

In August 2016 it was announced that climbing would become an Olympic sport in 2020.[3] Competitors will take part in three disciplines (Lead, Speed and Bouldering), to decide the overall winner.

Youth climbing[edit]

The main international youth climbing competitions are organized by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, including:

  • The IFSC Climbing World Youth Championships
  • The IFSC Climbing European World Cup

In the United States, youth climbing is organized by USA Climbing (USAC).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IFSC Rules modification 2018 V1.5, April 2018
  2. ^ a b "IFSC Climbing Worldcup (B,S) - Nanjing (CHN) 2017". Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  3. ^