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Climbing Competition

On the last day of the spring term, a group of students entered the Mini-Works climbing centre unaware of their forthcoming bouldering* victory.

On the 4th March, after flying across Sheffield to get to the practice session at the Mini-Works, the students performed a quick warm up and were straight on the climbing wall showing off their skills to their peers. As time went on, so did the level of friendly competition between them all. However, at the time I was most impressed with the level of support the students gave each other while climbing; it was extremely pleasing to see students work so effectively as a team. For some of the students, the practice session was the first time that they had ever been bouldering, which made the quality of their climbing even more impressive!

Having selected a small team of climbers from the original 10 who went to the practise session, we proceeded to the finals on the 18th March. This was again another first for some of the students who had never been in any sort of competition against students from another school, never mind from another 12 schools! The competition involved completing 15 problems (individual climbs are called problems) which the students would be scored on depending on how many attempts they had and whether they reached a bonus hand hold.

Pep talk and warm up completed, we were ready to go and get some climbing done. It was clear that we had a strong team as even right at the start of the competition students were completing problems on their first attempt (a ‘flash’), not an easy thing to do. However, this level of athleticism does come with some risks: one student had a “minor emergency”: I won’t mention Liane Mendes Da Silva’s name in case she gets embarrassed due to her outstanding bravery in the face of…a broken nail.

After 2 hours of hard climbing our time ran out, the students had performed brilliantly. We gathered in the main area to await the awards. Tom Greenall (GB Junior bouldering team coach) and Shauna Coxsey (female world #2), were there to give the awards. At this point I think I was more excited than the students who had convinced themselves that they couldn’t possibly be winners.

First up was the school team with the most points, no podium for us, disappointing but not unexpected. Most teams had brought 6 students, we only had five, lesson learned for next year. Next, top 3 boys, again no podium. This disappointment was compounded later as we found out that one of our climbers, Lewis Buttery, was 3 points off a bronze medal!

Last up were the medals for the top 3 girls in the competition. At this point the students had convinced themselves that it was all over, might as well head home. They announced 3rd place…not us. I really thought the students would have won a medal, they performed brilliantly. The resolve of defeat was fully written across the girls’ faces. But it wasn’t over yet.

“2nd place…Sophie Fidler!”

Followed closely by: “1st place…Tia Needham.”

I don’t think I have ever seen such disbelief on a student’s face when hearing their own name. Sophie stood on the podium, shy but proud, looking at her feet. Like a rocket, Tia was up and on that podium with a smile, possibly as wide as a door frame, creeping across her face. Resounding applause filled the room (most of it, from 3 very tired kids sat near me who, in my opinion, deserve equal praise).

Overall, the experience was a fantastic one, the event was excellently run, the problems were challenging yet accessible and the students, genuinely, had a good time. Hopefully we will be able to enter more teams in the future; the students were pretty clear that next year the overall trophy will be theirs!

Richard White

*Bouldering as a sport is relatively new compared to more classic forms of climbing such as sport or ‘trad’ (traditional) climbing. Bouldering removes the need for high walls, ropes and harnesses and concentrates purely and relatively small (roughly 3-5m) routes involving a short, but intense, series of moves with the aim of reaching a key hand hold.

Article Published : 18/3/2016