Sean McColl: Competitive Climbing

sean mccoll

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook. Vail World Cup Bouldering 2016.

I’m thrilled and thankful to have had the opportunity to ask Sean McColl a few questions about competition climbing. I really appreciate his time and thoughtful responses. The fact that he responded isn’t completely surprising since Sean has a strong dedication to his fans and interacting with them, but it is still wonderful. Recently, he started creating live stream training videos, in which he puts forth a lot of effort to answer all fan questions and leave viewers with worthwhile information. I recommend checking them out, if you haven’t already:

He answered a couple of my questions on the live stream video, which prompted the idea to take a chance on an interview. Below, I’ve included a couple of my questions from that as a brief example.

AnnalisaHow do you know when you’re a hundred percent recovered or not?

Sean McColl

Sean McCollYou will never know… the struggle is real. You have to do a lot of hit or miss testing. Because my season is generally April -> November, I am usually tired from over training in the first month.

It gets easier over time.

AnnalisaWhat is the heaviest weight you can do a pull up with?
Sean McColl I think I’ve done 120% my body weight. So I’m about 60kg, I’ve done it with 75kg on my back. I once did a one arm pull up holding a 20lb weight. Maybe it was 15..
sean 3

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook.

 He does an incredible job of responding to everyone or close to everyone, so there is a lot you can learn from watching the videos or reading responses.

Sean McColl is a 28 year old climber from North Vancouver, Canada, though he currently resides in France, and he started climbing back in 1997. Sean is friendly, energetic, and a strong competitor. According to, he is a 3 time overall World Cup Champion, the only competitor in history to come in top 8 in every discipline, 8-time Open Canadian National Champion, America Ninja Warrior Contestant, and much more. His hardest outdoor sends consist of V15 and 5.14d (9a). It’s safe to say that Sean McColl knows a thing or two about hard climbing, and competition climbing in particular. With his positive attitude, valuable information, and creativity, he is motivating to watch. He does a great job and looks like he is having a good time.

Climbing Together: When climbing in a competition each attempt matters a great deal. What is your thought process when you first look at a competition route? What do you try to figure out first, and how much thought do you put in before touching the starting holds?

Sean: As a competitor, you are always trying to flash the boulder. That is why sometimes we take so much time preparing for our first attempt. On something like a coordation or jump boulder, sometimes we need to try it 4-5 times to get the feeling for it, but our flash and 2nd go attempts should be very productive.

Climbing Together: About how far in advance do you decide whether you’ll enter a competition and start preparing for it? Do you feel like you’d only enter if you were ready, or is having the experience valuable enough to just try them all either way? 
Sean: I plan my season at the beginning of the year, so in January/February I have a very good idea of how many events I’ll be doing In the season. This will vary from competitor to competitor but I believe I am doing the most comps of any competitors on the World Cup circuit!
Climbing Together: If you face a route that seems like it might be too challenging or you can’t figure it out, what goes into the decision to conserve energy or give it your all? 
Sean: Generally, at the level we are at, you never think a move is “impossible” just that you might have read it wrong. Spend a bit more time making sure you are doing the right thing, look for small tricks or things to make it easier and do a quick efficient try.

Climbing Together: Can you share an example or two of lessons you’ve learned when competing that might be helpful to someone looking to get involved?

Sean: Being a good competitor is not about doing the hardest moves imaginable but being able to problem solve and think on your feet. You must be able to route read, get into the mind of the route setters and do any “style” of problem. Have fortes and weaknesses are not a problem so long as you work on your weaknesses.


Climbing Together: Being able to travel to all these different areas and countries to compete sounds very appealing. Do you have time to enjoy the areas, embrace in the culture, or explore them? If so what are some things you are drawn to when entering a new place?

Sean: I can enjoy the areas I travel to as much as I want. Sometimes I like exploring the city and cultures, other times if I’ve already done it, I just skip it and rest for the next competition.

Climbing Together: Watching you in these past competitions has been really great. You always seem to have a good attitude about the climbs and have a lot of fun with them. Of course, your climbing is very strong and inspiring to watch as well. What are some goals or things people can expect to see from you in the next few months?
Sean: Although my schedule is not a secret, I don’t share my goals with the general public unless I want to. One of my goals will revolve around the World Championships in September.
Climbing Together: As climbing grows as a sport, there are a lot of areas being explored like training, nutrition, access, how far climbers can push the next grade, etc. Is there a certain area you are particularly interested or excited to hear more information about?
Sean: I am interested in seeing how fast the sports science catches up to our sport. That is to say, I want climbing to get more geeky, there is so much information about athleticism out there and not much is used for climbing. In the coming decade, the best climbers won’t just be good at climbing but very good overall athletes!
Thanks again for your time and all the great answers! Good luck on your future endeavors. We can’t wait to watch what you do next. 
sean 2

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook page. Vail World Cup Bouldering


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