I’ve heard often that people are nervous about trying a climbing competition because they don’t think they are good enough or they are unsure what to expect. The unknown can be scary for many people, which is why I want to get rid of many of the unknowns for you.
First of all, it is important to know if you are entering a citizen’s competition it will be nothing like the world cup or major finals you see on videos. I saw some of these and thought competitions were crazy moves I couldn’t do on volumes with millions watching me. None of these things are true.
Competition routes look like regular routes for the most part. The difference for rope climbing is that they will be progressive. On regular routes at the gym the crux can be anywhere (middle, start, end) and there could be more than one crux. Sometimes a route is all easy fluff and a crux. Competition routes are progressive. They start with 5.9 moves let’s say and by the end you are on hard 5.10 or 5.11 moves. This is because you get more points the higher up you get. To find a winner, they need a way someone would clearly get more points. Therefore, the winner typically gets the highest on each route. For bouldering the problems are essentially regular problems. You get more points based on how many points the problem is given. Your top five highest points are added for your score. Setters usually put more creativity and thought into competition routes to make them more interesting and more of a problem to solve.
It will often be the holds you are familiar with and climbs you could see at the gym at any time. It’s not all weird volume moves.
Also there usually are very few people watching you. Those who support you watch and competitors may or may not watch. People are often given a time frame of say two hours to do their problems. You don’t line up and go one by one with a large crowd watching each person one at a time. Multiple people climb and there will likely not be a particular focus on you. You will likely be so focused, you wouldn’t notice even if there was. People often only watch others at competitions because they are looking for beta or because that person is a professional. It’s really not anything to worry about.
It is also good to note that whatever rules are set for that particular competition, they will be laid out before it starts. You don’t have to worry about knowing everything ahead of time. Staff at the event will be happy to help you if you have questions, and they will explain everything throughly.
For the most part, you can go at your own pace and decide how to use your time. It is actually pretty comfortable and similar to any other climbing day. The only difference is you’ll have a score card. Sometimes there will be judges who watch your climb and sign your score. Some competitions are more honors system but you need two witnesses. I recommend picking out friends ahead of time that will trust you and sign for you. You will likely find out pretty quickly how little other people are watching you if you don’t. Some people are nice or just really have watched and will sign. I’ve had some people tell me no because they didn’t see it. It helps to have people willing to sign. I always know at least two people who can sign. If I can naturally get them from someone watching I will, but having a backup is helpful.
Please, remember all levels are welcome. People tend to think competitions are for the best of the best only, but they all have beginner rounds. It is good to get practice and understanding of them to get to be the best of the best. Even if you have only been climbing a little or you are only v0 or 5.8, there are sections for you. It is usually beginner male/beginner female (they are separated by gender) are 5.8-5.10, or V0-V3. Please come out and try. Competitions are for everyone who may want to try. You never know how well you might do.
You also need to know that it is important to have fun. Citizen comps are good practice and good for helping you work your way up. At the end of the day, they are mostly just for fun. Enjoy yourself and enjoy climbing on unique problems. It is meant to be enjoyable.