The Raucous Side of Climbing: Bouldering

Those of us (ahem) who find ourselves much more comfortable on flat ground or strolling well-marked climbing trails with a promise of a whiskey flask at the end of the hike tend to find competitive mountaineering decidedly intimidating. Voyaging deep into the highlands seems a pursuit for self-styled super-folk who don’t mind risking frozen doom in exchange for solitary glory. But while children who scale Everest may get the media attention, other forms of the most vertical sport are more fan-friendly, less grandiose, and come with a groovier soundtrack.

Last weekend, the annual Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, featured the fast-paced final of the Bouldering World Cup. This International Federation of Sport Climbing event took place on a fiendishly complicated artificial wall, in front of a vocal throng of fans. An international contingent of top climbers attempted to decode the looming monstrosity, battling both to reach the top and do so at speed.

Shaggy-haired American Daniel Woods—who’s no stranger to scaling fearsome natural formations, either—topped the men’s field:

[vimeo] [/vimeo]

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Belgian climber Chloe Graftiaux out-spidered the women’s field:


Apart from the results, the Bouldering Cup offered enthusiastic audience participation, cool music, and an inspiring example of extreme physical fitness combined with strategic problem solving. This, my friends, is a form of climbing even vertigo-afflicted nerds like myself can endorse. All these qualities should serve bouldering well as it warms up for the ultimate niche-sport achievement: possible inclusion in the 2020 Olympics.