The Sport of Speed Climbing

Chances are that if you have found this website then you know what speed-climbing is. However, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. So what is speed climbing?

The Event

Speed climbing is a 1 versus 1 race to the top of either a 10 meter or 15 meter wall. This wall, set to specific standards by the IFSC, is identical wherever you race. This means that unlike other climbing events, but just like track and field, you can directly compare the results of one competition to another.

The Wall and Route

The speed wall is set on a 5 degree overhang and is either 10 meters (just under 32 feet and 10 inches) or 15 meters (just over 42 feet and 2 inches) tall. Each lane of the route is the same width of 3 meters (appx 10 feet).

The routes are not the same, just longer or shorter version or additional beta. Each of the route has it’s own unique pattern. The 10m route is not used in international competition, however they are used frequently at local, regional, and national championships due to a lack of 15m official walls being set up in gyms across the US.

The Holds

The speed climbing wall has just two holds that are repeated throughout the entirety of the route and simply rotated in order to create different orientations. The smallest hold is a foot chip that is placed at key points throughout the route to facilitate speed. While the footchips play a crucial role, it is extremely common for athletes to smear, or using the wall to provide friction for the feet without footchips, instead of using just the footchips

The largest holds, pictured below, are often time described as “jugs”, however they are not the same sort of jug that is found on your typical indoor boulder problem of v2 or less. As you can see, the speed climbing hold has three sides that resemble slopers and one side that is considered as a true jug. With the speed of the athlete and the 5 degree overhang, however, the hold does not offer as much grip as one would expect.

The Start

As this is a 1 v 1 race, both competitors start at the same place with a three command start. Two hands must be on holds and one foot must also be on the wall, leaving on foot on the ground. THis stance foot is positioned on a pressure sensitive pad that will detect if weight is removed too early, indicating a false start. A three beep start is used, with a referee beginning by announcing “ready”.

Two low tones will sound out with a high pitched starting tone that follows. If the mat detects a start that happened faster than 0.1 seconds after the starting beep, the competitor is charged with a false start. 

The race is straightforward. Use whatever beta you can to reach the top first!

The Finish

Unlike boulder competitions where control is the name of the game, here teh finish only requires one thing- touch the finishing pad first! Mid air hand slaps are common in this sport as racers dynamically jump off the last holds to propel themselves to the final hold.

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