Tips for Hosting a Successful Speed Climbing Competition

With major showcases like the YETI National Championships this week and the 2024 Paris Olympics right around the corner, competition speed climbing is on the rise. Regardless of your feelings towards the latest climbing discipline, it’s not hard to see the fascination. Even the flattest of flatlanders, those uninitiated viewers who can’t tell the difference between a crimp and a sloper, can still tune into a speed climbing race and immediately be amazed by the absurd combination of power and athleticism required to sprint up an overhanging wall in less than eight seconds (much less sub-five).

Speed climbing is an event that has the potential to transcend traditional climbing audiences, bringing in new fans who would never take the time to watch an hours-long lead or bouldering competition. Eight seconds or less? Yeah, all right, you can probably make time for that.

We caught up with two climbing gyms that have hosted major speed climbing competitions in the past year to find out their thoughts on the growth of the sport, the behind-the-scenes preparations that went into organizing a speed climbing competition, and their plans for hosting future competitions.

Hosting the 2022 YETI Speed Climbing National Championships

Keith North is the Head Routesetter at G1 Climbing + Fitness in Broomfield, Colorado. Last November, G1 hosted the speed climbing portion of the 2022 YETI Climbing National Championships.

“Honestly, it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a really long time,” said North. “It’s an event that I’ve gone to a bunch of times, watched it, competed in it, so it was really exciting to be on the host side of the event.”

As luck would have it, G1 is also down the street from the Head Rush headquarters in Louisville, Colorado. We closed down the office early that afternoon so that the Head Rush team could go watch Sam Watson (the current US men’s speed record holder) and Callie Close take the top spots on the podiums.

There was a full house in attendance, with the crowd spilling over into both the downstairs and upstairs viewing areas and enormous cameras filling the stairs in between. As the head-to-head races progressed and the finals loomed ever closer, the energy in the gym continued to grow. Each slip elicited a chorus of groans. Cheers erupted in several of the tighter competitions. Athletes surged back and forth, until the races inevitably came down to the final lunge.

“I remember working a lot of hours that week,” Keith North laughed, thinking back on the experience, “but it was a lot of fun to watch.”

When asked about the planning process, he credited USA Climbing with doing an excellent job of organizing the YETI climbing National Championships.

“We had planning calls every week leading up to the event, so that everyone was trying to be on the same page. And there were always little things that we learned, but by and large it was a pretty smooth event.”

For the YETI Climbing National Championships, G1 relied on TRUBLUE Speed Auto Belays to keep the athletes safe. TRUBLUE has been the Official Auto Belay of the US National Climbing Team since 2020. G1 Climbing + Fitness operates a variety of TRUBLUE devices, though for a competitive speed climbing competition, TRUBLUE Speed is required to keep pace with the sub-10 second ascent times of the nation’s fastest climbers.

“If we were going to do auto belays, we were going to use TRUBLUEs,” said North. “I would say the quality and the safety track record has been really good. On the insurance approval side, it’s easier to discuss with our insurance.”

TRUBLUE Speed Series 2023 by Sharma Climbing

The YETI Climbing National Championship wasn’t the only major speed climbing competition to employ TRUBLUE Speed Auto Belays. In March 2023, Sharma Climbing in Spain held their second annual Sharma Series, including a speed climbing event dubbed the TRUBLUE Speed Series.

The atmosphere was great,” said Francisco Rodrigues, the Marketing & Events Manager at Sharma Climbing. “Everyone was just staring at the competitors running up the wall. It is such a ‘new’ discipline that needs a lot of visibility, and from Sharma Climbing we try to maximize the visibility of every discipline in the sport (Speed, Boulder and Sport Climbing).”

The TRUBLUE Speed Series included a $5,000 cash prize pot and attracted some of the biggest names on the European climbing scene today.

“It was amazing,” said Rodrigues. “The devices were tested by World Cup competitors. We have at home competitors such as Leslie Romero, Danyil Boldyrev, Carla Vidal, Isaac Estevez, Maria Laborda... People that are usually on World Cup and they felt the devices perfect for competing.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Rodrigues predicts that the third edition of the Sharma Series is going to be "better, bigger, and more competitors!” Considering where speed climbing was only a handful of years ago, and its extraordinary growth since then, it’s hard to argue.

Full Interview with Francisco Rodrigues, Marketing & Events Manager at Sharma Climbing

What was your favorite part of hosting the Sharma Speed Climbing Competition?

The atmosphere was great, everyone was just staring at the competitors running up the wall. It is such a “new” discipline that needs a lot of visibility, and from Sharma Climbing we try to maximize the visibility of every discipline in the sport (Speed, Boulder and Sport Climbing)

What did you learn from the experience?

Speed competition is a lot easier than boulder or sport climbing competition, no special holds, no setting... Just need a wall, a couple of TRUBLUE Speed Devices, a chrono and there you have, your own speed competition is underway!!

Do you have any tips for other gyms that are considering hosting a speed climbing competition?

Start. That’s the main point.

How did your TRUBLUE Speed Auto Belays perform during the competition?

It was amazing, the devices were tested by world cup competitors. We have at home competitors such as Leslie Romero, Danyil Boldyrev, Carla Vidal, Isaac Estevez, Maria Laborda... People that are usually on World Cup and they felt the devices perfect for competing.

What was your overall impression of working with Head Rush Technologies in preparation for the Speed Climbing Competition?

Super easy, Head Rush Technologies is a fast answering - easy going company, it was easy to have a couple of meetings and find a perfect way to collaborate, a way that suited both Sharma and Head Rush Technologies.

Anything else you would like to add?

Looking forward to the 2024 edition of TRUBLUE Speed Series. It will be better, bigger, and more competitors!

You Might Also Like

Pro Tips for Climbing Ridiculously Fast

Training tips from three of the world’s best speed climbers on how to get started, get better, and get insanely strong at speed climbing.

Get to Know Sam Watson: Speed Climbing World Record Holder

Speed climbing world record holder Sam Watson is the newest member of Team TRUBLUE! By the time you’re reading this, Sam has probably already broken his own world record pace, but, as it stands today, 4.79 is the mark to beat.

How Speed Climbing Impacted Overall Scores at the 2020 Olympics

Rescoring the 2020 Olympic Sport Climbing competition based on the updated 2024 standards. Winners and losers of the combined scoring format.

Copyright © 2024 Head Rush Technologies