The scene was set at Yonder Climbing, located in wonderful Walhamstow for the first ever edition of Climbing as part of the Varsity series. The event was exclusively focused on ‘bouldering’, one of the three disciplines that will appear at the 2020 Olympics and that essentially is about skill rather than pace – the goal was to top twenty boulders in the fewest attempts possible in order to score a maximum of points. The top three men and top three women would compete in a final. Now to the interesting bit.
As this was the inaugural edition, you could be pushed into believing that it was totally up for grabs for the KCL climbers. Not really. Having a quick chat with the UCL coordinator minutes before the start of the event made me understand why: “we have Aidan Roberts, mate…”, he said. Who is Mr. Roberts? Well, an athlete who placed 1st at the BUCS this year (national university champion basically) and who is part of Team GB for Climbing. Did I mention he’s also sponsored by clothing brands?
For the men’s event, the qualifiers were very unsurprisingly dominated by UCL’s Roberts. Even we must acknowledge the talent and skill he displayed by topping the standings with 190 points out of 200, having gone through all the boulders he attempted on the first try and with ease. However, we also had our own star as KCL’s Dan Bautista managed to get 2nd place with a very impressive tally of 154 points, making use of a quite unique style of bouldering that proved to be very efficient. The next KCL competitor came 5th with our team captain, Daryl Chan, showing a result of 136 points that was only three small points off the podium which would have enabled him to compete in the final. So close! The final therefore featured Dan and two UCL competitors – four minutes to go the highest you can on a wall that the best university climbers would struggle to EVER top. While Dan managed to reciprocate his amazing performance from earlier in the afternoon and secure his 2nd place by reaching the midway point after a few attempts, Aidan Roberts gave us again a masterclass by reaching the very top of the ‘impossible’ wall on his first attempt. Respect.
And for the women’s event, it was quite similar. Again, the athletes in red managed a great 2nd place in the qualifiers through Gillian McNaughton who would finish with the amazing tally of 104 points. A very good display as KCL had turned up with only Gillian as competitor for the women’s event whereas UCL’s line-up featured six members. These standings were topped by UCL’s Imi Bagnall-Smith, with an outstanding tally of 140 points that meant she was 3rd overall as everyone competed on the exact same boulders. Gillian would finish 3rd in the final, swapping places with the fellow UCL athlete. A podium was still more than expected and very welcomed, considering how outnumbered we were.
After a lot of math, the results were out: UCL’s total was 1371 points and KCL’s was 941 points. UCL had won by quite a margin. However, it was a wonderful performance from our climbers, managing 2nd place and 3rd place in the men’s and women’s event respectively and considering they were quite literally competing against world-class opposition. This made for a very entertaining inaugural edition of a sport that is sure to gain in popularity in the years to come.